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Power House

18 September 2009

Supporting Britain’s industrial organisations requires the application of FM knowledge with a broad range of skills to very different and often hazardous environment as Jane Fenwick discovered at Promanex which operates in the nuclear and power generation sectors


NUCLEAR POWER HAS BEEN part of the energy mix in the UK since the 1950’s when Calder Hall in Cumbria became the UK's first commercial nuclear power station, and the first in the world to provide electricity commercially when it was connected to theNational Grid. Following the building of the Calder Hall and Chapelcross prototypes, nine full scale Magnox power stations were built in the UK. Construction of the first of these began in 1957, a year before BOAC launched the first jet passenger service across the Atlantic and more than two decades before Concorde first landed at Heathrow in 1970. Technology moved fast in this sector and the Magnox nuclear power stations were soon overtaken technologically by Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor technology (AGR) and then by the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR). Now most of these early Magnox reactors are being decommissioned. Magnox South holds the contracts and licenses to defuel and decommission five of these historic Magnox nuclear reactor sites on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
The five sites are Hinkley Point A in Somerset; Berkeley in Gloucestershire, Sizewell A in Suffolk; Bradwell in Essex and Dungeness A in Kent. All generated electricity during their lifetimes with Sizewell A and Dungeness A only ceasing power generation at the end of 2006. Now these power stations are in different stages of decommissioning and under current plans it is likely to be many years before the sites are totally cleared.
Although these sites are now past effective working life, the decommissioning process is no less critical and the sites all require services to be delivered to support this change from power generation to a waste management operation.
Specialists in total FM to industrial clients, Promanex is providing a range of support services to the Magnox South portfolio of five nuclear power stations. Up to 50 services are needed to support the people working there and the activities for the decommissioning operations.
When a station ceases generation the risks begin to diminish although safety always remains the top priority. At three of the sites - Berkeley; Hinkley Point A and Bradwell - all the highly radioactive spent fuel has been removed and returned to Sellafield in Cumbria for reprocessing. That means at those sites, about 99 per cent of the radioactivity has been removed from site. Ultimately all that will be left will be concrete and grass.
Decommissioning means dealing with the liability of these old nuclear facilities. Funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the decommissioning programme is planned out over decades for about 20 sites across the country. Promanex’s role is to maintain existing facilities at the Magnox South sites until their demolition or change of use. This is a long-term programme, and even though the power generation phase is over, the sites can expected to be busier during this decommissioning phase.
Magnox South competitively tendered the previous individual site contracts as one package of work for a period of 2½ years plus the option for two additional one year periods. Promanex won the contract to provide an integrated FM solution delivering a wide range of support services from cleaning, catering, security, grounds maintenance, waste and recycling management, graphic design and buildings maintenance services through to water boiler maintenance, Legionella dosing equipment maintenance, and air conditioning maintenance.
According to Chris Scott, Promanex’s Portfolio Manager for its nuclear business, “The plans for the decommissioning of nuclear power stations are published in advance and there is little we can do to influence that, but we can help shape objectives at a local level through our relationship with the client. There is an onus on anyone involved in nuclear decommissioning to consult the supply chain and the public at large, and we are heavily involved in this”
As Scott explained, Promanex is assisting in a change in culture from one in which there was high levels of security and safety without much cost constraint, to one where this focus continues as they change to become a project organisation that needs to focus on saving every penny. “It is a challenge for them culturally and financially,” he said.
He continued, ”We have been successful in helping this process. By coming in from the outside we have been able to show them innovation in H&S management and other disciplines which they have adopted. They can see that there can be the same level of service but delivered more effectively and efficiently. For example, we have changed cleaning regimes from a scheduled service to a responsive service.“
After five years working in the nuclear sector, Promanex understands the environment and the business culture. According to Scott, “It’s not an easy market to work in. Each power station has a unique design and each site has clear processes but they tend to be different. We have to follow stringent safety and security regulations.”
Among the benefits Promanex brings to Magnox South is the level of co-ordination and multi-skilling through its directly employed staff. An on site team is headed by a facilities or site manager backed by a key account manager and further technical expertise from across the Promanex Group.
The Promanex Group comprises three entities – Promanex (Total FM and  Environmental services), Promanex (Civils & Industrial Services formerly Jefco Services and Promanex (Construction & Maintenance Services) – formerly Thermal Energy Construction. Together they have the capacity to directly deliver a vast array of support services spanning traditional FM, asset management and repair and maintenance
services. Starting in 1996, Promanex has focused on a gap in the market for delivering FM services to industrial clients. Its first big FM contracts were won at Eon’s (formally Powergen) Killinghome and Kingsnorth power stations. Since then it has grown 15 percent year on year from virtually zero to a +£60m business with an order book of over £300m.
Promanex’s director of the Total FM business, John Funnell explained, “We began as a new company that recognised that bundled services were not being offered to the power generation industry. We offered a one-stop shop for a fully bundled service carried out almost entirely by own in house staff. All our clients are blue chip companies in the industrial environment. The majority of our business is relationship based. We like to build long term relationships with the client base, develop trust and confidence in us to take on their non-core activities, and help them add value to their business.“
He explained that the resources within the Promanex Group mean that it can also undertake new build, construction and installation activities, as well as M&E services for its clients. The acquisition in 2002 of Jefco Services enabled penetration into the petrochemical market with its skillset in civil engineering and waste management.
“When we started, it was in an environment where manufacturers had lots of contractors to manage,” he said. “We go with an open book and a full range of services to deliver to help cut down client supply chain and management burden.”
Promanex has over 1,000 employees, of whom about 530 deliver total FM services to clients. There is a broad range of skills and the company supports training from MBAs to apprentices – it has seven apprentices currently. Funnell explains that although Promanex’s roots are in the energy sector – at one stage it accounted for 90 percent of its business but now this is just 30-35 percent - the company has broadened into other areas such as petrochemicals (10 percent), process and manufacturing, and the public sector where it is building relationships with local authorities across the country.
“Where a client is using several contractors on his site there is scope for rationalisation to bring those services together,” Funnell explained. “Turnover in our client base is very low


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