Hinkley Point: Surprise delay for nuclear plant deal

Plans to build the first new UK nuclear plant in 20 years have suffered an unexpected delay after the government postponed a final decision until the early autumn.

French firm EDF, which is financing most of the £18bn Hinkley Point project in Somerset, approved the funding at a board meeting on Thursday.

However, the government then said it needed to review the project.

The GMB union described the delay as “bewildering and bonkers”.

Contracts were due to be signed on Friday.

Jean-Bernard Levy, EDF Group chief executive said he remained confident the project would go ahead.

“I have no doubt about the support of the British government led by Mrs May.”

‘Dithering and delay’

Justin Bowden, the GMB union’s national secretary for energy said: “Theresa May’s decision to review the go-ahead on Hinkley Point C is bewildering and bonkers.

“After years of procrastination, what is required is decisive action not dithering and more delay.

“This unnecessary hesitation is putting finance for the project in doubt and 25,000 new jobs at risk immediately after Brexit.

“It is a gross error of judgment and must be reversed.”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative MP whose constituency includes Hinkley Point, said Mrs May is doing exactly the right thing.

“Theresa checks everything, and she wants to make sure this is right.

“We’re talking about three countries, we’re talking about an enormous deal for the United Kingdom, for France and for China. She wants to make sure it’s the right job and that’s what she’s doing she’s checking it as all good Prime Ministers should.”

Critics of the plan have warned of environmental damage and potential escalating costs.

They are also concerned that the plant is being built by foreign governments.

One third of the £18bn cost is being provided by Chinese investors.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation said it remained committed to the project.

Analysis: John Moylan, BBC Industry Correspondent

EDF’s decision yesterday to back Hinkley Point was expected to be swiftly followed on Friday by the government and the French firm signing the key contracts that underpin the deal.

Instead government sources say with a new leadership in the country it is right to consider this huge infrastructure project.

They add that a timetable has been agreed with the stakeholders in the project.

But EDF and the government had briefed journalists in recent days that these key contracts would be signed today.

Sources have told me that Chinese officials – here to sign up to their stakeholding in Hinkley – will now be returning home.

There’s no suggestion that the new government is going cold on this long delayed project.

But the events of the last 24 hours will send mixed signals about Britain being open for business in the wake of the referendum vote.

Tom Greatrex, the chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, urged the government to make a decision as soon as possible.

“We need to get on and do this and that’s why I’m hoping the government make their decision very soon because if it goes on for a lengthy period of time we are going to run the risk of having real problems in terms of our energy supplies,” he said.

“Then what happens is that we end up paying a lot more and we end up paying for much more dirty power which we can’t afford to do if we are to meet our climate commitments.”

Claire Jacobson, head of climate, energy and environment policy at the EEF manufacturers’ organisation said the government’s decision was “yet another blow to a decision that has been hindered by many delays and uncertainties”.

Courtesy BBC News