LONDON (Reuters) - EDF Energy has poured the concrete for some of the first permanent structures at its Hinkley Point C nuclear project site in Britain after getting the go-ahead from the nuclear regulator earlier this week, the company said on Friday.
Britain's first new nuclear plant to be built in decades has been plagued by delays. Critics of the 18 billion pound project have focussed on the guaranteed price for electricity, which they say does not reflect falling energy prices since the deal was drawn up.
However, Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) finally gave consent for work to start at the Hinkley site in southwest England on Monday.
Concerns have also arisen about the reactors which will be supplied by Areva. Last week, an internal document by the ONR said the safety culture at Areva's Creusot Forge in France fell short of expectations and warned about the implications for Hinkley.
EDF Energy said on Friday concrete has been poured for Hinkley's power station galleries, a network of connected tunnels which will carry cabling and pipes.
Construction of the first reactor at the plant is scheduled to start in 2019 when concrete will be poured for the first time to make the reactor platform, it added.
"Pouring the concrete for the first permanent structure of HPC is a significant milestone," Hinkley Point C project director Philippe Bordarier said in a statement.
"It demonstrates our ability to undertake the serious responsibility of nuclear power plant construction," he added.
EDF Energy said 1,600 workers are on the site each day.
Other work includes excavating soil and rock to prepare the ground for the power station buildings; constructing tower cranes for building work, accommodation buildings for workers and a temporary jetty.
EDF is building the plant with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), which has a 33.5 percent stake. It is expected to generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, enough to meet about 7 percent of Britain's demand.
The plant is due to start producing power in around 2025.
Reporting by Nina Chestney; editing by Alexander Smith