The French premier François Hollande says that he still wants to see the EDF-backed Hinkley Point C nuclear power project go ahead despite the difficulties the development is having in getting off the ground.
Unions, some internal management and even his former partner, the current energy and environment minister Segolene Royal have expressed concerns that the £18bn price tag could bankrupt EDF, which is 85% state-owned.
“I am in favour that this project goes ahead,” the French president told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday. “It’s very important to understand that we need a high-performance, highly secure nuclear industry in France, and that we cannot let others take over terrain, including on exports, that has been French up to now,” he said.
The final investment decision on the project has been delayed after unions demanded a review by independent experts of the costs associated with it.
Hollande said the review would be completed “in the coming weeks”.
Ratings agencies Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s both lowered their forecasts for EDF last week, saying efforts to streamline the company were insufficient.
Hollande restated his vow to restructure and boost financing at EDF and rival energy giant Areva, “because they are the future”. “The French nuclear industry has 200,000 employees. It represents our energy independence,” Hollande told Europe 1.
France’s energy minister, Ségolène Royal, had questioned whether France should proceed with the project.
“I am wondering if we should go ahead with the project. The sums involved are colossal,” she told the Financial Times.
The project, which will meet nearly seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs over a 60-year period, is at the heart of the government’s energy plans.
Its start date has been pushed back eight years to 2025, as it’s been plagued by numerous delays and setbacks.