set for decision on Hinkley C this week amid claims of board 'panic'
final decision on whether to build Britiains first nuclear
power station in decades is set to be made by energy giant EDF
this week, amid claims of panic among the French firms
board over the viability of the £18bn project.
According to national press reports, France says the decision
on whether to give the green light to its controversial Hinkley
Point C plant near Burnham-On-Sea will be made on Wednesday.
But the largely state-owned company has refused to comment, or
even to confirm or deny that the meeting is taking place.
This secrecy reflects the extreme sensitivity about the decision
with practicalities and politics pulling in opposite directions.
The project suffered a serious blow last week when French regulators
delayed a decision on what to do about safety flaws in a similar
reactor. But cancelling it would be a huge humiliation for British
ministers, and could cause a cross-Channel diplomatic row.
Last October, the government persuaded China to invest heavily
in the plant, filling a funding shortfall, and the Energy Secretary
Amber Rudd is awaiting the decision before signing a deal to allow
the company to charge double the present price for the electricity
generated from Hinkleys twin reactors. Three similar European
Pressurised Reactor (EPR) projects are planned for Britain if
Both Ms Rudd and David Cameron are privately confident that Hinkley
will go ahead, while George Osborne is relying on it to spur increased
Chinese investment in Britain.
Last week, Ms Rudd approved a line of pylons to carry power from
the plant, as we reported here
on Burnham-On-Sea.com, though she added that they could be used
for other new power stations in the South-west if the nuclear
project fell through.
Yet there are signs of last minute jitters. Union leaders are
reportedly warning the company of financial, industrial
and legal risks in the project, while the French financial
journal Boursier has suggested that there is panic on board.
Last week the French nuclear regulator delayed until the end
of the year a decision on what to do about very serious
weaknesses detected in the pressure vessel of a similar EPR being
built at Flamanville, Normandy.
The same fault which could lead to a nuclear accident
was detected in the vessels for the Hinkley reactors, which
had been built and will now have to be replaced.
The Flamanville plant is five years behind schedule and its cost
has trebled, while the only other EPR being built in Europe, in
Finland, is almost a decade late, and the cost has more than doubled.
Two other EPRs being built in China are also thought to be over-running
while the cost of Hinkley has already soared.