Going Nuclear: generating security at Hinkley Point C
Tim Compston, features editor at SecurityNewsDesk, finds out more about what is involved in providing security during the construction phase of the massive Hinkley Point C nuclear facility – the first such plant planned in Britain for a generation.
Few would argue that delivering protection for a nuclear construction site like Hinkley Point C (HPC) is the ultimate challenge for any security provider, given the potential for environmental protests at the perimeter and, as a part of our critical national infrastructure, more serious security concerns.
To put the economic impact of the planned Hinkley Point C project into some sort of perspective, the construction phase alone will bring an estimated 25,000 employment on-site opportunities. Once complete, the £16 billion plant in Somerset is designed to generate reliable, low carbon, electricity for around five million homes or, looking at it another way, this equates to seven percent of the total UK demand. According to EDF Energy, going down the nuclear route is also good for the environment by taking nine million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year out of the equation.
Security services contract
Following on from the announcement, over the summer of 2015, that G4S was entering into a ten year contract, worth £80 million, with EDF Energy to supply security services for the construction of Hinkley Point C – subject to a final investment decision – I caught-up with Noah Price, managing director of G4S Gurkha Services to find out more about what the work is likely to entail.
Drilling down to the specifics of the multi-million pound security contract, the core of G4S’s remit, moving forward, is to provide ‘live’ on-site security management. This will include: access control, perimeter security – assisted by K9 patrols – and visitor searching and screening. In addition, as part of a panel of suppliers, G4S will help to screen and vet on-site contractors. The company anticipates that, at the peak of the project, 300 of its staff will be involved in keeping the critical areas associated with the Hinkley Point C build safe and secure.
Asked to comment on the contract, Noah Price of G4S Gurkha Services is very upbeat regarding the continued association with Hinkley Point C, and EDF Energy, while stressing that providing security in any type of nuclear environment is far from a run-of-the-mill endeavour: “It is certainly not like guarding a bog standard car park. Hinkley Point C is a major construction site moving into a nuclear new build with many changing parts.”
Having the right calibre of individuals in place is vital here. Price says that G4S has a very rigorous selection process and also ensures that those selected are kept SQEP (Suitably Qualified and Experienced Person). He explains that, in the context of the nuclear industry, safety is a paramount concern. This is a consideration reiterated by site operations deputy programme manager and head of business support, at EDF Energy: “Thanks to the numbers involved, teamwork is an important consideration”, explains Price, “we want to make sure that our officers meet the correct standard and compatibility to fit into the team.”
One factor which helps to fuel a meeting of minds, reckons Price, is that a significant number – such as Price himself – are ex-military: “This works very well because on the client security side at Hinkley Point C many of their personnel have a similar background. There is a tremendous fit right from the off – we think in the same sort of way.” Added to this, Price explains that G4S is ‘very blessed’ at Hinkley Point C that there is a real ’one-team approach’ between who is the client who is the contractor: “I think this is the only way to work successfully at somewhere of this magnitude and complexity.”
When patrolling an environment like Hinkley Point C, Price also feels that the skills of ex-military personnel really come into their own: “Our workforce are able to capitalise on their field craft. They can sense, for example, that something has happened with the fence-line or something is slightly different which then leads on to further investigation to deliver a deterrent or to disperse the threat.”
Regarding security delivery, Price says that G4S comes at it from an ‘effects-based planning’ point-of-view: “We look at the effects that need to be put in position to mitigate various threats. It might be a manned guard, it might be technology, it might be canine, or a whole mixture of things and of course we listen out for new and evolving technologies.”
On the subject of access control, one of the main roles for G4S in the context of Hinkley Point C, Price comments: “We have to make sure that only the right people are allowed onto the site and we have to know how many are on or off site because it is a nuclear mustering arrangement.” In addition to people, Price says that it is important to ensure that the ‘right stuff’ enters the site and the ‘wrong stuff’ doesn’t leave it.
Price tells me that it is not just the sheer scale of Hinkley Point C which is daunting from a security standpoint but being prepared for the long haul: “Over time it is about maintaining the consistency and quality of the product you deliver. As well as bringing the right people on board, if you look at things across a 10 year timeline it is a bell shaped curve starting off with very few people, peaking at the five or six year point, and then it starts to decline, all of which we need to manage.”
Turning to an EDF Energy perspective on the awarding of the Hinkley Point C security contract, Marcus Ransom, site operations deputy programme manager and head of business support, outlines why G4S is in the frame to protect the construction of the planned nuclear plant: “This contract, won after a rigorous selection process, builds upon a long-standing relationship developed throughout the Hinkley Point C project to date. G4S’s understanding of the specialist requirements necessary to work within and around nuclear licensed sites, together with their previous experience of managing the security of large nationally significant infrastructure projects and operational power stations, makes them an excellent partner in safely delivering our project here in Somerset.”
Ransom goes on to explain, from his standpoint, where the G4S team fits into the wider security picture on-site: “From a purpose-built control room on-site, G4S operates as a fully integrated part of our own client team, taking responsibility for a large scope of work that includes protective security of the main site, site vetting services, immediate site incident management and access control.”
He adds that by the nature of this being a nuclear project it is, not surprisingly, a complex environment to work within: “A key issue for a project such as Hinkley Point C is to consistently achieve the security requirements of our regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, whilst not restricting the construction activity on any of our multiple sites. This must be achieved in the changing and evolving environment that typifies a large dynamic infrastructure project,” says Ransom.
Given that the areas related to Hinkley Point C that G4S is tasked with securing are very dynamic, Ransom also emphasises the importance of G4S personnel having the right capabilities in place to meet this reality on the ground: “The multi-disciplined G4S team, all of whom are trained to deliver security in the unique environment of a nuclear site, will make use of a range of integrated, state-of-the-art, equipment and systems which are designed from the outset to be re-deployable and sufficiently agile to cope with the changing security risks and site layouts that are expected.”
So as nuclear power looks set to receive a welcome boost in the UK in the guise of the Hinkley Point C project, it is reassuring to know that comprehensive plans are in place to build the new plant and the same attention to detail is being paid to the delivery of site security.