How many people will it take to build South Africa's next Nuclear Power Plant?

Written by Mark Mitchell on Tuesday, 30 April 2013. Posted in Articles, Engineering

blog-post-1The Integrated resource plan for electricity calls for the construction of several nuclear power stations. This position is supported by government.  Experiences on Medupi and internationally show that the impact of labour on the project can not to be underestimated.

Scarcity of sufficient artisans with the right skills which leads to the need to hire foreign workers is certainly a contributing factor to the labour unrest which is a contributing factor to the project delays.

So the question is: what are the necessary staffing levels for nuclear construction in South Africa.

The United States DOE published a study “DOE NP2010 Nuclear Power Plant Construction Infrastructure Assessment” in 2005 that addressed this question for nuclear power plant construction in the USA. The work supporting this study was completed by MPR Associates, and EON Consulting partner.

It is important to know how many people work at one time on a single unit. This is a useful metric as the units (reactor and turbine) are generally constructed somewhat independently, in parallel but staggered in time.

In the US the peak construction workforce for a single unit of the power station is about 2,300 people of which 1,600 are craft.

How does this number translate to South Africa? Good question.

To answer this you need to consider the productivity of the labour local to the site as well as the supervision requirements.

Knowing how to adjust labour estimated for construction projects is very important for project success. Construction companies invest a lot of effort in this as it is one of their main competitive advantages and getting it wrong can put them out of business.
 
Labour productivity is largely due to the level of skills and experience that the labour force has. It varies from place-to-place around the world (or even in a country) and also changes with time.  In fact the relative productivity even varies for different trades.

The amount of direct supervision that the labour force requires also depends on the labour skill level. This is important as the supervisors usually cost significantly more the labour.

So what are the effects for South Africa relative to the east coast of the US:

A rough estimate for the productivity factor for this type of work is about 3. This means that we would need 3 times more people on site to complete the same work in the same time.
In addition, in the US you need about 1 supervisor for every 12 artisans, in South Africa this ratio is different and a single supervisor will effectively supervise only 6 artisans.

The result: to construct the unit in South Africa you would need a much larger staff, about 6,200 people in total of which about 4,800 are craft. This only leaves the question of how we ensure that we have sufficient people with the right skills available to do this.

Craft description

Craft Percent

Peak Personnel Average Single Unit (US)

Peak Personnel Average Single Unit (SA)

 

 

 

 

Boliermakers

4%

60

180

Carpenters

10%

160

480

Electricians/Instrument Fitters

18%

290

870

Iron Workers

18%

290

870

Insulators

2%

30

90

Laborers

10%

160

480

Masons

2%

30

90

Millwrights

3%

50

150

Operating Engineers

8%

130

390

Painters

2%

30

90

Pipefitters

17%

270

810

Sheetmetal wrokers

3%

50

150

Teamsters

3%

50

150

Total Construction Labour

100%

1 600

4 800

 

Full Compliment

 

Peak Personnel Average Single Unit (US)

Peak Personnel Average Single Unit (SA)

 

 

 

Craft Labor

1 600

4 800

Craft Supervision

80

411

Site Indirect Labor

160

480

Quality Control Inspectors

40

40

NSSS Vendor and Subcontractor Staffs

140

140

EPC Contractor’s Managers, Engineers, and Schedulers

100

100

Owner’s O&M Staff

100

100

Start-Up Personnel

60

60

Regulatory Inspectors

20

20

Total

2 300

6 151

About the Author

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell

Mark directs EON's Engineering Consulting business.