The cash-strapped French energy giant EDF may sell off profitable stakes in its in its eight existing UK nuclear reactors to raise money for the Hinkley Point C project. But with no example of the EPR design planned for Hinkley even near completion, it may all prove a risk too far. EDF could unveil details of a sell-off plan on 16th February, when it is scheduled to release annual financial figures and is expected to give a final investment decision on building Britain’s first new reactors for 20 years. It has meanwhile emerged that another EDF project is running late at Taishan in China, where the company is building two 1.75GW reactors to the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) design, the same as is planned for Hinkley C. The Taishan project is seen as the pilot for Hinkley C, which would also use twin EPR reactors. A further two EPRs are planned for the site. This precarious situation raises a deep and serious question for EDF and CGN to consider? Is it wise to commit to the EPRs at Hinkley C until at least one other EPR is working somewhere in the world? This applies especially to cash-tight EDF. CGN is understandably risk-averse over EPRs and is reportedly demanding an indemnity from EDF against losses at Hinkley C – so that while EDF would only own 66.5% of the project, it would be liable for 100% of any cost overruns. Meanwhile two legal challenges against the UK government’s enormous state aid package for Hinkley C are looming at the European Court: one brought by Austria, now joined by Luxembourg; and one by Germany’s Greenpeace Energy cooperative together with other green energy suppliers in Germany and Austria. There is also considerable unease in EDF about Hinkley C, which some fear could, in a worst-case scenario, sink the company altogether. The leak to Les Echos is widely supposed to have come from company insiders determined to scupper the project.
Ecologist 8th Jan 2016 read more »