The Patio: a classy name for a rather classy place. As I enter this brand new building everything is light and clean. A sense or order and quiet reigns across the building and, as you enter the tranquil state-of-the art offices on the 4th floor, the team of engineers inspires seriousness and professionalism.
Part of the EDF Nuclear Division, EDF SEPTEN (Services Etudes et Projets Thermiques et Nucléaires) is responsible for the pre-design (conceptual and basic design) of all the French nuclear power stations. Based in these offices, TPEF is part of a GMES (Groupement Momentané d’Entreprise solidaires), a conglomerate of companies along with Altran. The aim of a GMES is to get contractors to work in harmony. This has the advantage of bringing together all the assets each sub-contractor has and merge them together to make the best performing team possible. Altran is well known and experienced in nuclear safety and TPEF has the expertise and technical know-how in installations, particularly in detail design for nuclear power plants.
The partners are working on the general layout of the next generation of nuclear reactors. Yes, these luminous offices design the future! “But you see, studying the future using past experience also allows you to change the present” says the Project Manager from his large desk overlooking the office. “Take Fukushima for instance, we’ve all learnt what safety modifications should be added to optimize the current construction of Taishan and Flamanville reactors. So, as well as looking into the future, we work on optimising the present”.
As well as seriousness, you can sense the pride of working on such a project; a pride and excitement that of course cannot be shared due to the sensitive nature of the project. I was, however, given some insight into what kind of work can be done. “In this office we work on new projects. We take care of the layout, linking piping, equipment, HVAC, and electrical systems all together to form one big coherent model and making sure everything falls into place and that there are no clashes. The aim, as well as optimising the present projects, is to be able to offer a wider range pressurized reactors Gen3 in the future which are adaptable to different needs (wide and small grids). These future reactors will be more efficient, safer and cheaper to build”.
What impressed me most was the vast range of backgrounds and experience that all the engineers bring to the table: oil and gas to turbine specialists as well as mechanical engineering, they all have their forte in one or more specifications and one can tell this team has been carefully handpicked to constitute the “crème de la crème” of the design office. Responsible for various buildings (electrical, combustible, access tower and reactor buildings) the team covers various aspects of the project (from project management to project steering as well as PDMS administration). Working on a monthly basis, EDF’s requirements are collected and analysed. Studies of hypotheses are made and the basic design and notes are then modified. The new 3D PDMS model is then delivered to EDF at the end of the month for approval.
When asked what TPEF’s strengths were to win the contract, the answer was unanimous: a real Brand Image. Having worked with EDF for nearly a decade, mainly in detail design of new builds, TPEF has a proven know-how in the nuclear field (on projects such as OL3, FA3 and TAISHAN) as well as multi-disciplinary competences. It is undeniable that nuclear energy has a promising future in which TPEF definitely has its place. As well as a future, the French nuclear market has an important present. Indeed, 58 reactors require a huge amount of maintenance and renewal projects, giving a large opportunity for TPEF in the future.
Michaël Xavier HENRY