Government officials who are reviewing the massive Hinkley Point nuclear project near Burnham-On-Sea are exploring how the UK might withdraw from the deal while minimising financial risk and damage to international relations, it has been reported this week.
Civil servants are looking to see if there is any loophole, clause or issue in contracts yet to be signed that allow the Government to pull back without a huge loss and while also saving face, reports The Independent newspaper.
It was expected last month when the board of French energy company EDF voted to go ahead with Hinkley C power station that the British Government would give its approval. Instead, new Business Secretary Greg Clark announced he needed more time to make a decision.
A Whitehall source told the newspaper: “There is a working assumption of people in government that the civil service is looking for a way out, a legal loophole, a clause. They are looking for anything that will allow the Government to withdraw and also allow the Chinese to withdraw while also saving face.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “No contract has been signed and it is only right that a new Government considers all component parts carefully before making a final decision.”
There have also been concerns over whether China’s involvement is a security risk.
Nick Timothy, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, previously warned that China “could use their role to build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will.”
The two new reactors that would be built at Hinkley are also of an unproven design, with the two being constructing elsewhere beset by budget overruns and delays.
Hinkley Point C would be a crucial part of the UK’s future energy mix, providing 7% of the country’s total electricity needs when up and running. It is also expected to create 25,000 jobs.