MORE than 70 children from local primary schools headed to Hinkley C last week for the official naming ceremony of three enormous tunnel boring machines.

The competition gave 215 primary schools from across Somerset the opportunity to name the three 1,200 tonne tunnel boring machines that will soon begin the construction of the new power station’s water inlet and outfall tunnels.

After arriving safely at the construction site by sea and road, the trio of tunnelling machines will soon be removing 370,000 cubic metres of earth to enable 3.3 kilometres of tunnels to be built underneath the seabed. The tunnels will carry seawater to cool the two reactors, the first of which will see first operation in 2025.

Tunelling tradition decrees that these extraordinary machines can only start work once they have been officially named – and it must be a female name as the patron saint of miners is Saint Barbara.

The winning names were:

- Mary Anning, a fossil finder based in Lyme Regus, chosen by St Peter’s First School in Williton.

- Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, a locally based suffragette who fought alongside Emmeline Pankhurst for rights for women. Emmeline was born in Bristol before taking her fight to the city of London. This name was chosen by Stogursey Church of England Primary School.

- Beatrice Shilling, also known as Tilly, a female engineer who worked to improve the mega machine that was the spitfire during the Second World War. Beatrice was named by Cannington Church of England Primary School.

During the process of selecting the winning names, a fourth name, Sarah Guppy, was selected to name the drilling kit which will be used to dig additional sections of the water outlet structure. Sarah was a design engineer ahead of her time rumoured to have played a lead role in the design of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

At launch the machines will have their names and the respective winning school displayed proudly on their sides.

The enormous sections will be unable to be retrieved on the tunnels completion, meaning they will remain forever buried under the seabed.

After a representative of each school revealed a plaque of the winning names, the pupils attending received a talk from one of the tunnelling team and a guided tour of the HPC construction site.

Stogursey Primary School headteacher, Rebecca Barnes, said: “The whole school is thrilled that Stogursey could have the honour of naming a machine.

It has been a wonderful experience for the children to see first-hand what is happening so close to where they live whilst also being inspired by the role models of the past.

Local expertise was also used to overcome the logistical challenges of delivering such large components. Somerset based Osprey safely transported the sections of the tunnel boring machines in one of the first major site deliveries by sea.