EDF and its Chinese partners are on the cusp of concluding a 21,000 page document detailing the relationships and responsibilities of all parties involved in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project in England.
According to the Daily Telegraph negotiations are still expected to go to the wire with the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s state visit next week expected to copper-fasten agreement.
Sources told the Telegraph they are optimistic they will be ready to unveil a major pact that will make clear the first new UK nuclear plant in a generation will go ahead.
Despite the positivity any agreement would still fall short of a final investment decision on the £24.5 billion plant, which would be subject to further formalities and be expected to follow in coming months.
The delay to ultimate agreement surrounds the complexity involved in five areas: Setting out the terms of their cooperation on Hinkley Point C; on a second EDF-led plant at Sizewell; on a Chinese-led plant at Bradwell in Essex; on cooperating to get Chinese reactor technology approved for use in the UK; and on projects elsewhere in the world.
Overshadowing all of that detail is the question of what precise size stake in Hinkley is to be taken by the Chinese state nuclear groups, China National Nuclear Corporation and the China General Nuclear Power Group.
The Chinese have been holding out for a 30 per cent share but the French state utility would prefer that share to be 40 per cent.
An eventual agreement between EDF and the Chinese is expected to run to some 21,000 pages and be subject to further formalities, with a much smaller document forming the basis of next week’s announcement. The total documentation for Hinkley – including the subsidy contract, loan guarantee and waste transfer with the Government, and contracts with key suppliers – is now estimated to run to some 70,000 pages.
Investors are hoping any agreement will also provide updates on the timescale for first power from Hinkley, a project once due online in 2017 but now not expected until 2024 at the earliest, and on further details on the proposed collaboration at Bradwell.
Under the plans, the Chinese are expected to lead on the development of their 1GW Hualong One reactor design, which could be built in the latter half of the next decade.
President Xi and the Prime Minister are due to attend a UK-China business summit next Wednesday at Mansion House, where hopes are high that agreement will be facilitated.
EDF has also been unable to attract outside investors to the project, deterred by the example of delays and cost overruns seen in the construction of EDF’s EPR reactor design in France and Finland.
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