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UK Government announces surprise review of Hinkley Point C nuclear project

29 July 2016

The plan to build a new £18bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset suffered an eleventh-hour delay late on July 28 when the UK government said it would hold a new review hours after EDF, the project’s French developer, gave it the go-ahead. Greg Clark, the business and energy secretary, said that the Government would carefully consider the project before making a final decision in early autumn.

Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C - Image: EDF
Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C - Image: EDF

After a decade of debate about the controversial project, the board of EDF approved Hinkley Point C by 10 votes to seven, according to sources close to the French energy company.

On the morning before the July 28 board meeting, EDF director Gérard Magnin resigned from the group, saying the project was too risky. His resignation follows that of EDF chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal earlier this year, which was also linked to concerns about the cost of the Hinkley project.

A No 10 source said: “EDF made their announcement, and we have agreed a timetable with the French government, which means we will consider all the component parts of this project and make a decision in the early autumn.”

Critics say the project represents poor value for money for consumers. The guaranteed price of the electricity produced, nearly three times the current price, and the billions of pounds in subsidies agreed have drawn widespread condemnation.

Other factors that have come in for criticism include the major problems experienced at power stations under construction in both Finland and France which use the same reactor design as the ones planned for the Somerset plant. The 33% stake in the project held by China has also raised security concerns.

Supporters of the scheme say that when completed, the two nuclear reactors at the plant will provide vital low-carbon baseload at a time when much of the country’s electricity will be provided by intermittent renewables. Construction would also create an estimated 25,000 jobs and the plant would provide 7% of Britain’s electricity, enough to power 6 million homes.

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