Senior managers at EDF have told MPs that they remain convinced that the French state-controlled group should postpone the Hinkley Point project until it has solved a litany of problems, including the reactor design and multibillion-euro lawsuits over delays on similar schemes.
The letter from EDF managers to the UK parliament’s energy and climate change committee is the latest setback for the proposed £18bn nuclear plant, a flagship government energy policy that is intended to provide 7% of Britain’s electricity from about 2025, at a time when old coal and atomic plants are closing down.
In April, the French company said it was delaying a final investment decision (FID) until September while it consulted with trade unions, but engineers and other middle managers appear to remain implacably opposed.
A letter addressed to Angus MacNeil, the chairman of the committee, from the Fédération Nationale des Cadres Supérieurs de l’Énergie (FNCS) union “advises to delay the FID until better upfront industrial visibility is evidenced”.
Outstanding problems highlighted by the senior managers at EDF include:
- Areva NP, the designer of the European pressurised reactor (EPR) planned for Somerset, “is currently facing a difficult situation”.
- The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) may not give the green light to the EPR being constructed at Flamanville in north-west France due to various anomalies.
- There may be “identical flaws” in an Areva EPR being built at Taishan 1 in China.
- The scandal over falsification of parts from Areva’s Le Creusot that potentially put safety checks at risk.
- Multibillion-euro litigation between Areva and the Finnish energy group TVO over delays to an EPR scheme at Olkiluoto remains unsettled.
- An EDF offer to purchase Areva expired on 31 March, leaving “governance uncertainties upon the implementation of the Hinkley Point C project”.
Many of the problems have been raised by other unions inside EDF, such as the CGT, which are worried that EDF’s soaring debts and growing financial commitments are a danger to its future stability.
But the letter from Norbert Tangy, the president of the FNCS, to MacNeil highlights once again the huge list of problems. Among others is concern expressed by the ASN at a hearing on 25 May that any resolution of EDF and Areva’s twin financial problems could take considerable time.
The energy and climate change committee is investigating the financing of new nuclear plants and has twice called Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF’s British subsidiary, EDF Energy, to explain the delays at Hinkley.
Earlier this week, Areva said it was splitting itself into three parts and isolating the financial commitments to its much-delayed and over-budget EPR project in Finland.
Areva previously held a 10% equity stake in Hinkley, but this was relinquished last year, and the project is now owned by EDF and its Chinese partner, China General Nuclear Power Corporation.
A spokeswoman for Areva, asked about the latest internal restructuring, was unable to say exactly when EDF will take over the Areva NP arm of the business, which oversees reactor designs.
EDF Energy declined to comment on the letter to MacNeil, saying it would not be appropriate while a consultation of staff was under way.
But De Rivaz told the committee in May: “The current position of some of the French trade unions is to postpone the project for two to three years. Our position is that there is no need for a delay because the project is ready.”
This article was written by Terry Macalister Energy editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 17th June 2016 18.11 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010