David Boath, Vice President and Chief Engineer for Europe of London-based multinational consultancy and engineering company AMEC, talks to Juliusz Kłosowski.
AMEC has over 60 years of experience in the nuclear energy industry. What are your credentials in terms of the nuclear energy projects planned in Poland? What role could AMEC play in Poland’s nuclear power program? What can you offer?
AMEC, as a global engineering and technical project managing and consultancy contractor organization, is capable and keen to support and develop all forms of clean energy, also in Poland. AMEC is principally involved in the oil and gas sector, but we are also working for all kinds of renewable energy developments throughout the world. This involves nuclear energy, but also clean coal, closed-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) and other clean energy technologies. We especially look to improve the environmental aspects of these technologies. Obviously, we have a lot of experience and competences here to offer to clients, who mainly tend to be utilities and plant owners, in improving all energy generation processes. If you look at the nuclear side, we operate in all three aspects: in “nuclear new build,” site operation management, and waste management.
In a typical project, we would provide engineering and technical assistance, guidance, and support to the operator. We also support regulators to help evaluate technologies, to look at the operational characteristics of a reactor, at the safety case, licensing requirements, to fit that to operational standards, to analyze operational and management development of a site and so on.
Are the services you can offer in terms of Poland’s nuclear energy program the same as those you offer in the UK or the U.S.?
No two nuclear projects are identical. Depending on the client, country, regulations and other circumstances, our role might actually vary. In the UK we work with EDF [an energy company with operations spanning electricity generation and the sale of gas and electricity to homes and businesses] and they play the role of architect and engineer, while we support them, mainly regarding regulations in the country. EDF originates from France, where the legal part of the nuclear business looks different to that in the UK, so here they need our support.
How would you describe AMEC’s position on international markets?
AMEC is one of the world’s leading engineering, project management and consultancy companies specializing in the clean energy, oil and gas, mining, environment and infrastructure industries. With annual revenues of some £4.2 billion, AMEC employs over 29,000 people in around 40 countries, ranging from scientists and environmental consultants to engineers and project managers. Our shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange, where the company is included in the FTSE 250 index. Our safety culture is world class and award winning, and our commitment to it is never compromised. AMEC’s main activities are based in the UK, U.S., and Canada, with a growing footprint in the Middle East, some parts of Asia and, of course, Central and Eastern Europe. As we are talking about our nuclear power projects, our experience comes mainly but not exclusively from the UK, U.S. and Canada. I must say that we are quite selective as regards nuclear projects we decide to offer our participation in.
How many nuclear projects are you involved in in the UK and U.S.?
In the UK we are involved in all ongoing projects; in the U.S. we have input in 19 of 20 upcoming projects. As you see, we have quite a strong position as a provider of engineering and technical services in the nuclear energy sector.
There is still discussion in Poland about what kind of opportunities and benefits the nuclear energy project could bring the economy and the country in general. Given your extensive experience in the field, how do you think Poland could benefit from nuclear energy.
In a way Poland today is at the stage where the UK was some 60 years ago: the very beginning of a nuclear energy sector. We have experience from those times in the UK, but we are also involved in similar projects in countries that are just at the beginning of their nuclear energy experience as well.
Of course, we can talk first about direct benefits coming from the fact that nuclear energy is clean and is relatively stable and predictable in terms of prices since it isn’t as sensitive to changes in fuel prices as the so-called conventional energy segments. However, there are also more indirect benefits that, in my opinion, are no less important for any country that develops a nuclear energy project. First, with projects of this scale, there is a lot to gain locally, by local communities—hundreds if not thousands of new jobs, the development of local markets, infrastructure, and rewarding professional career opportunities for those who are going to take part in the project. Second, with nuclear energy projects on their way, we have to go back to school in a way. We need to encourage kids into scientific and engineering careers. This would have an enormous beneficial impact on the whole education system, from elementary schools to universities. After some time this is going to have a very positive impact on society as a whole, and, of course, a positive impact on the economy.
Also, the highest possible standards to be applied in any nuclear power project, where there is no room for any compromises regarding quality and safety, bring a lot of positive consequences. By joining the family of countries that develop the nuclear energy sector you are also joining the club of the highest quality and safety standards. That has a very positive impact on all other sectors of the economy. All industries will gain from that. The general approach towards safety and quality will improve in every aspect of the nation’s life. That observation holds for all countries that started and developed nuclear projects regardless of their previous stage of industrial and economic development.