Nothing like it will be built again because a) successive British governments over the last 30 years have buried their heads in the sand over energy policy and b) we as a country don't do actual engineering anymore. Both a and b mean that our energy future likes wholly in the hands of France!
 Say what you like about Thatcher, at least she had a halfway coherent energy story.
Edinburg sounds a lot like Hampton Roads, VA, where we build lots of defense stuff, including the 100k ton Gerald Ford class nuclear carriers, with the largest gantry crane in the western hemisphere - fun fact, they hoist the island of the carrier onto the flight deck. Amazing engineering work going on there!
>we as a country don't do actual engineering anymore
...is that really true? The UK is currently home to Europe's largest civil engineering project (Crossrail), my hometown produces Trent jet engines and designs wings for all Airbus aircraft. And there's the cars that are both manufactured (BMW, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc) and designed (Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover, McLaren...) here.
The engineering we do has changed, and maybe there is less of it than there was forty years ago, but it's a bit hyperbolic to say we simply "don't do" actual engineering.
I seem to recall that, measured by value in real terms, the UK does more engineering than ever. Just because it's a smaller part of the economy and doesn't support as many unskilled people doesn't mean it's not happening.
On an unrelated note, some of the social issues we complain about these days seem to be a direct consequence of the off-shoring of manual labour.
The UK does (at least before the recent recession) more manufacturing that ever - it's just that the whole process has become super efficient that it doesn't employ very many people:
"A 2009 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, citing data from the UK Office for National Statistics, stated that manufacturing output (gross value added at 2007 prices) has increased in 35 of the 50 years between 1958 and 2007, and output in 2007 was at record levels, approximately double that in 1958."
I don't know if that is the case in the UK, but it is the case in US vs. Chinese manufacturing. The US output never went down and more things are produced in the US than ever - it just takes fewer people to do it, and it isn't the kinds of things that are currently visible to most consumers.
- the UK makes and develops satellites
- designs, develops and produces a huge number of jet engines - is home to nearly all the Formula 1 teams
- the Nissan car plant in Sunderland produced 500,000 cars last year which is a huge engineering challenge and is now the home to the main production of the LEAF electric car
- Teeside is still the home of chemical processing
- companies like Alert Me are leading the charge in smart energy consumption
- last time I checked Arm were stil based in Sheffield and Cambridge and scaring the pants off Intel
- last, but not least, BAE systems is in the midst of producing some of the best and most advance submarines in the world and commissioning nuclear reactors in the process.
I do however agree with your first point - although there are a lot of wind farms around now which is nice to see
Doesn't matter who owns the company - the engineers are British and they are solving their engineering problems in the UK. CocaCola is obviously a US company but the production plant in the UK has some very interesting manufacturing/engineering problems (as does Mars, Proctor and Gamble, Fuji (pharma division)) and if you really need examples of British companies then try Dynex, Wolfson Microelectronics, Imagination Technolgies, British Sugar and Dyson.
His dig about a Frech company was just a fashionable quip that is doing the rounds right now - yes they are better at some things than us but likewise we sell them planes etc so each nation plays to it's strengths
In terms of pure engineering I agree it doesn't matter who owns the company; in terms of whether engineering is having its full impact on Britain (other than by providing jobs) I'd say it does - if profits get moved to other countries and taxes paid elsewhere, we're losing out and I'd like to see more UK owned companies for that reason.
>CocaCola is obviously a US company but the production plant in the UK has some very interesting manufacturing/engineering problems
Citation needed. They are Coca Cola manufacturing plants all around the world. From Bolivia to India and from Germany to Albania, and they don't have any interesting manufacturing/engineering problems.
Nothing that wasn't already solved in the US HQs anyway.
There are, but each plant (just like in every industry) will have it's own issues, targets and geography specific problems to deal with. Manufacturing isn't a setup once and repeat around the world process - as much as the people working on it would like it to be.
My citation is a friends Dad who was a lead engineer on CocaCola's line. Your citation the Bolivia etc not having interesting problems would be?
>There are, but each plant (just like in every industry) will have it's own issues, targets and geography specific problems to deal with. Manufacturing isn't a setup once and repeat around the world process - as much as the people working on it would like it to be.*
Sure, but you wrote that (the UK one) "has some very interesting manufacturing/engineering problems". What you describe is perfectly normal engineering problems, that kind that any kind of factory has.
Nothing out of the ordinary, or anything that points to any special UK engineering in the UK CocaCola factories (which was what you provided it as an example of).
>My citation is a friends Dad who was a lead engineer on CocaCola's line. Your citation the Bolivia etc not having interesting problems would be?
Having visited two of them and seen the production process. Pretty much standard stuff all around. Back in the day (it's now closed) we had one even in my hometown in Europe (in a place of around 120K people).
Ok, I understand your comment now. The emphasis wasn't on me saying that the UK plant was the ONLY one that had interesting challenges, I was simply using that as a way to the say that any CocaCola plant (or similar, as I mention in the brackets after) has interesting engineering problems and that there IS a plant in the UK. I think people often dismiss manufacturing as "done" and easy hence that became one of my examples.
I think our definition of interesting is different as I find nearly anything in manufacturing interesting, standard or not, and making them better/faster is always a problem to me - I recently toured one of our suppliers who supplies our extruded parts and I was fascinated about how they use their machines, not one of which was less than 25 years old, to make useful shapes and multi material extrusions - on the surface everything was standard and run of the mill but below the surface it was much more interesting.
I was going to reply to the original post but this perhaps more apropos. My father started his career with Babcock & Wilcox after leaving a nuclear sub as an electrician's mate with a nuclear engineering MS; his division -- the org that designs and maintains reactors & power plants -- was later acquired by Framatome, which later formed part of Areva (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areva). It's a French company, but entirely global and the nuclear power division (Areva NP) performs nearly all of it's reactor design work in the US, as well as most of the planning/oversight for power plant support & maintenance/inspection services.
(Speaking of plant inspections, the job of inspector is one of those high-stress but über-high pay seasonal jobs you never hear about. $200k+ for 6mo/yr of work, but it's ~2000hrs of work compressed into that period.)
Anyhoo, growing up I was privileged to tour a number of different power plants in the US, and -- besides the scale of things Charlie notes in the blog post -- the thing that struck me most was that even though the designs were often very similar (all PWRs of some sort), the implementations were very different. Even though reactor design may be identical between plants, all the peripheral support infrastructure and all the wiring & plumbing is unique to each plant, and keeping track of everything is hugely complex.
As an aside, and the bring relevance to HN, because of the complexity of nuclear power plants -- particularly the plumbing and backup systems -- there is a huge market for simulation services (which is something Areva pretty much owns globally at this point), which consists of both electrical/mechanical engineering and software work. They literally build a control room for a specific power plant, identical to the actual control room but with software simulating all the inputs/outputs and allowing them to run all sorts of scenarios (and to train new operators). My dad had a few job openings for software engineers who had some nuke background, and positions requiring only a few years experience were paying $100-120k base, and this is in small city Virginia (Lynchburg) where you can buy a decent house for $150k.
"successive British governments over the last 30 years have buried their heads in the sand over energy policy"
You missed discussing the why, which was north sea natgas. Why, we'll have natgas so cheap we won't meter it, and we'll grow rich exporting it. So why not replace every electric plant with a natgas turbine?
Wot you say its 2005 and the fields have declined so much that we're now net importers and the lights are going to go out pretty soon? In fact we need to import more than we can physically be supplied with given current infrastructure?
Whoops! Its a pity really, we may be witnessing the first "first world" country to have its electrical grid shut down in a couple years. Brownouts in summer suck, but brownouts in winter can be lethal. Its not going to be pretty.