work continues at Hinkley Point

The Hinkley Point C site, near Bridgwater (south-west of the United Kingdom), in September 2019. Peter Nicholls / REUTERS

During the Covid-19 pandemic, work on the Hinkley Point C site continued. The new EPR-type nuclear power plant, built by EDF in the south-west of England, is considered to be a "Essential national infrastructure project" by the British government. As such, the continuation of the site is authorized. However, the number of workers has been reduced significantly, from 4,000 people locally to 2,000 " in the coming days ", according to EDF.

" It's not enough ", worries a worker present on the site, who testifies at World on condition of anonymity. Employed for more than a year at Hinkley Point C, he asked for its complete closure. Unlike France, there is no "right of withdrawal" in the United Kingdom. To benefit from the partial unemployment measures, which guarantee 80% of wages during the health crisis, the employer would have to order the cessation of work.

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This worker therefore continues to exercise his fear in his stomach, especially since several of his colleagues with symptoms due to SARS-CoV-2 have isolated themselves voluntarily. "EDF has taken action, he says, but it is impossible to really keep the social distance of two meters. We live in the same prefab, we eat in the same canteen three times a day, we take the same bus to go to the site and back… ”

Like many nuclear sites, Hinkley Point C is located in a remote corner of the countryside, by the sea. To carry out this pharaonic project, the French electrician had to build a prefab for 500 people on site. He also houses a thousand workers in Bridgwater, the nearest small town. Every morning, shuttles organize the arrival of workers on site.

"Additional protective measures"

"No one respects distance measurements while waiting for the bus", laments the worker. Inside the vehicle, only one person is seated in every two seats, which is an improvement. "But I still have someone right in front and someone right behind. There were people coughing in the vehicle ”, continues the same person. On arrival at the site, the measures are more effective. Ground markings impose the necessary distance in the queue before crossing the security gates. But then you have to change into changing rooms with hundreds of metal lockers lined up.

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