BRITAIN could withdraw financial support for the controversial £18bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, if a similar plant being built by France’s EDF is not running by 2020, The Sunday Times can reveal. The condition, attached to a Treasury loan guarantee, raises fresh questions about the future of Britain’s first new atomic power plant in a generation. Last week EDF, which is 84% owned by the French state, postponed a board meeting in Paris to approve Hinkley Point, amid concerns about the heavily indebted company’s ability to fund the project. The plant will be financed by EDF and its Chinese partner CGN, with the backing of a 35-year contract to sell power to households at above-market rates. The arrangement hinges on a Treasury agreement to guarantee up to £17bn in loans. Mounting problems at Flamanville, where EDF is building a plant of the same reactor design, could void that commitment. Flamanville is years behind schedule and three times over budget. Last year inspectors uncovered “very serious anomalies” in the €10.5bn (£8bn) plant’s reactor vessel. In the worst case, France’s nuclear regulator, which is carrying out a review of the project, could force EDF to break the steel vessel out of the reactor building, adding years to the timetable. Another project, in Taishan, China, has also been delayed. When the European Union signed off on the Treasury’s guarantee of Hinkley Point, it insisted it be conditional on Flamanville having “completed the trial operation period” and other operational milestones by December 2020. If Flamanville misses that deadline, EDF would be forced to immediately repay any loans that benefited from government support.
Sunday Times 31st Jan 2016 read more »