French energy giant EDF is set for a showdown with the Treasury over state funding for nuclear power stations as Britain’s atomic future faces a make-or-break moment. Jean-Bernard Lévy, chairman and chief executive of Électricité de France, will speak to chancellor Rishi Sunak via video link on Wednesday to demand clarity over Britain’s plans for funding nuclear power. The industry was left reeling this month when Japan’s Hitachi quit its Horizon project to build a £20bn plant on Anglesey. That shock retreat, after years of prevarication by Westminster over state support for nuclear power and turmoil in the Japanese nuclear industry, left only EDF and China General Nuclear with plans for atomic power stations in the UK. EDF and China are building the delayed and over-budget £22.5bn Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset, but Paris has balked at the prospect of French taxpayers funding the next nuclear project in Britain. Instead, EDF, which is 84% owned by the French state, wants British taxpayers to underwrite a new plant at Sizewell in Suffolk. A proposed new financial structure, the regulated asset base, would levy a tax on UK household energy bills to help pay for the project. Other options include the British government taking a stake — although that has worried the Treasury, which is anxious about adding to its debt mountain. EDF declined to comment. With most of Britain’s ageing reactors due to close by the end of the decade, Sunak and Boris Johnson face the dilemma of whether to fund more big nuclear plants, or rely on wind, solar, gas, small reactors and imported power to keep the lights on. The American government has warned Hitachi against selling the Anglesey site to China, and is understood to be considering bankrolling US companies to take it over. Westinghouse, which makes the AP1000 nuclear plant, and NuScale Power, which is developing small, modular reactors, are both believed to be exploring options for the site. South Korea’s Kepco is also understood to be interested, as is EDF.
Times 27th Sept 2020 read more »