AN engineering company in the region has opened a training centre that replicates the environment inside a nuclear power station.

The facility is part of a £550m, seven-year partnership between Doosan Babcock and British Energy and provides an improved ability to train and qualify staff to meet the standards set by the companies.

The 30,000sq ft centre, in Gateshead, is filled with replicas of British Energy's plant and has new technology to carry out inspections and repair techniques in remote and difficult access environments.

Bob Nimmo, Doosan Babcock's managing director of services (Europe), said: "As part of our partnership we are working together to respond to the growing need to deliver value by developing new and improved techniques delivered through highly skilled specialist personnel.

"When working on British Energy's plant, we jointly expect to deliver projects to meet our common business goals, sometimes in a very demanding environment. Hence the need for a dedicated training facility to meet our shared expectations of a safe and quality service delivered to time." When the facility is at full capacity, 700 personnel working over several months will receive training in highly specialised inspection and maintenance techniques and be able to take these out to serve the needs of British Energy's AGR fleet.

The facility is set up to provide training for the Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B boiler inspection and repair programme.

Managed by Doosan Babcock with a full-time British Energy presence at Gateshead, the training replicates the site conditions for access and temperature and is the best possible hands-on preparation before the work is carried out on site.

Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy, said: "This is an important step forward in training and preparing for the work that lies ahead at these two important plants.

"Having this replica to train on is a real example of how seriously we and our contract partners take human performance and nuclear safety within our plants."