China could proceed alone with UK nuclear plant if France withdraws

By Mike Hayes16 May 2016

EDF's proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, UK

EDF's proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, UK

A British peer has suggested the Chinese are keen to take on the construction of one of the world’s most expensive nuclear power projects, at Hinkley Point in the UK.

Currently, a joint venture is on the table, with French energy firm EDF and the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) building two reactors on the UK’s south coast.

As it stands, EDF would take a 66.5% share in the project, with CGN taking a 33.5% share.

Lord Howell told fellow members of the UK's House of Lords he was aware that “…the Chinese also have a plan B which is to bypass EDF altogether and build two smaller reactors on the Hinkley C site – and to do it rather quicker than the present Hinkley C plan…”

In a later interview with The Times, he said he had had a number of private meetings with Chinese delegations and added, “This is the view of informed thinktanks and a deduction of the way they must be thinking.”

The anticipated cost of the project currently stands at around £18 billion (US$ 26 billion), but EDF recently announced an extra 15% contingency cost, which has been interpreted in some quarters as a new budget of £20.7 billion (US$ 29.7 billion).

In a statement, EDF maintained, “It simply reflects normal, prudent good practice for any construction project to know that the money would be available in the case of a more extreme scenario.”

It has been reported, however, that a number of private shareholders of indebted EDF are reported to be strongly opposed to the company proceeding with the hugely expensive and lengthy project.

After a number of previous postponements to the final investment decision, the crunch meeting has now been put off by EDF until the summer.

France’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron put the date of a final EDF decision at September, which would mean the project could not be completed before at least spring 2026 – a full three years beyond the date originally proposed by EDF.

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