Hinkley Point C nuclear plant may be delayed for another year

There are fears that final approval for the Hinkley Point C project in south western England may be delayed for another year, as the company’s board frets about seeking new investors for the project.

The Financial Times reports that the company is concerned about being exposed if it doesn’t secure additional backing. The nuclear power plant, originally set for a 2017 opening, has since been put back to 2025, but analysts now say the latest issue could push that date back even further.
JB Levy
EDF has said repeatedly that final investment decision (FID) approval for the plant in Somerset, in the west of England, is “imminent”. Jean-Bernard Lévy, chief executive, said last week the decision was “very close”.

French rules dictate that the company must consolidate the debt for Hinkley if it owns more than 50 per cent of the scheme. Under a deal struck with CGN, the Chinese state-owned nuclear company, EDF owns 66.5 per cent of the project but it wants to offload a portion to avoid taking on the extra debt.

While Mr Lévy has said that he hopes to bring in other investors after taking the final investment decision, others on the board say it should do so as a prerequisite, a process likely to last into 2017.

Dr Jonathan Cobb of the World Nuclear Association says that EDF is still on track for delivery, telling Power Engineering International, “Jean-Bernard Levy recently qualified that the decision “soon”, would be this year. EDF have said that the plans are for nuclear concrete to be poured in 2019. The current decision timetable for FID is still consistent with that. There’s already been extensive preparatory works.”

Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, has warned it might downgrade EDF’s debt if it goes ahead. The company’s €37bn net debt load dwarfs its €18.5bn market capitalisation.

The major stumbling block for new investors is that none of the projects employing the European Pressurised Reactor design is up and running. Two are under construction in Finland and France but are years behind schedule and billions over budget.

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