France will go ahead with construction of the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant near Burnham-On-Sea and will begin agreeing technical details in the coming weeks, the French economy minister has said.

Emmanuel Macron, right, told the BBC that the project is “very important” for France and EDF.

He said: “We back the Hinkley Point project, it’s very important for France, it’s very important for the nuclear sector and EDF.”

“Now we have to finalise the work, and especially the technical and industrial work very closely with EDF, with the British government, to be in a situation to sign in the coming week or month.”

Pressed on whether he thought the deal would go ahead, Macron added: “That’s my view, and that’s our perspective, because I think it’s very important for our commitment to nuclear energy.”

Earlier this month, the French energy minister, Ségolène Royal, said that a postponement of Hinkley C was still under discussion.

Macron’s views also appeared at odds with the message that EDF unions took after meeting him last week, when he reportedly said he had not yet decided whether to go ahead with the nuclear plant and that a final investment decision would be taken by early May.

EDF has yet to outline how it will fund the project. In October last year, it agreed a deal under which China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) would pay a third of the cost of the project, in exchange for a 33.5% stake.

But EDF has been struggling to find the cash for its remaining 66.5% stake and the cost of the Hinkley Point project now exceeds EDF’s market value.

Greenpeace says alternatives to Hinkley Point are “increasingly attractive”.

John Sauven, director of environmental pressure group Greenpeace, said: “The French economy minister Emmanuel Macron says one thing to a UK audience and another to the French.”

“He has made it abundantly clear in French that no decision has been made.
“The reasons are clear: the costs are rising, the problems are mounting, and the opposition in France is growing.”

“The alternatives are looking increasingly attractive no matter which language yo speak.”

Hinkley Point is set to power nearly six million homes and create over 25,000 jobs.