The £18bn project to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point near Burnham-On-Sea has been backed by EDF Energy’s boss this week – a day after his finance director quit because of concerns about the project.
The future of the scheme to construct two reactors at Hinkley Point has been called into question by the resignation of Thomas Piquemal, EDF’s finance chief.
Mr Piquemal left the company over the weekend because of his fears that the huge cost could prove too much of a strain on the company’s balance sheet.
News of his departure sent EDF’s shares down as much as 10pc on Monday but Jean-Bernard Levy, chief executive of EDF gave his support.
Mr Levy said: “With the support of its shareholder, the state, EDF can confirm that it is looking to invest in two reactors at Hinkley Point under the best possible financial conditions for the group, with the objective of making a final investment decision in the near future.”
“EDF relies on very strong operational results, the internal transformation and the savings plans launched in 2015, and on investments in support of the energy transition and the renewal of the nuclear industry.”
EDF will finance £12bn of the cost of building the two 1,600 megawatt reactors, with China General Nuclear Power Corporation kicking in the remainder.
However, analysts say the huge investment would tie up more than half of EDF’s capital in nuclear projects just as the energy world is changing in a way that could mean atomic energy falls out of fashion.
Mr Piquemal is understood to have shared concerns held by French unions who want the Hinkley Point decision delayed for several years until EDF completes work building reactors of a similar type in its home nation.
Work on these French reactors is already years late and over budget. EDF is also facing large maintenance bills for work on its existing fleet of nuclear power plants.
To add to the strain on its finances, EDF recently had to borrow billions of euros to maintain its dividend payments. Shareholders have also warned of the threat that Hinkley Point poses to EDF.