The EDF boss in charge of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant project in the UK has quit to return to his native US.

Chris Bakken has resigned his post as Hinkley project director to take up the role of executive vice-president and chief nuclear officer for American power company Entergy.

He begins his new job on April 6 and said this week: “This is a critical time for the industry, Entergy and its nuclear fleet. I’m proud to join the Entergy team.”

EDF said in a statement: EDF said: “Chris Bakken has decided to return to the USA, his home country, to pursue new professional opportunities whilst allowing him to spend more time with his family.”

The company said Bakken had been “a key leader at EDF Energy since he joined Nuclear Generation – then British Energy – in 2005 as a chief nuclear officer, when he played an important part in the turn-around of the business”. 

He joined EDF’s new nuclear build business unit when it was established in 2009 and shortly after became the project director for Hinkley Point.Chris Bakken

The French company has appointed Philippe Bordarier, currently chief nuclear officer for EDF Energy Generation, to run the Hinkley project.

Bakken’s departure comes a week after EDF delayed a board meeting where it had been scheduled to make a final investment decision on Hinkley. The delay has been caused by concerns among a French union represented on the board over the cost of going ahead with the £18bn project.

Hinkley opponent Greenpeace seized on Bakken’s departure as further signs of internal rifts at EDF over the project. UK executive director John Sauven said: “Coming just days after the EDF board failed to agree a final go-ahead for Hinkley, this move is yet another symptom of the disquiet this project is causing within the company itself. The whole enterprise makes so little economic sense that EDF’s own staff and many board members are concerned it will seriously damage the company.”

In his new role, Bakken Bakken will be responsible for Entergy’s nuclear plants in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, as well as the company’s management services to Cooper nuclear power station for the Nebraska Public Power District.

Entergy chairman Leo Denault said: “At a time when the nuclear business is experiencing a transformation, Chris has the unique combination of skills required to help manage us back to a best–in-class organization.”

He added Bakken had “a proven track record as a global business executive equipped with the necessary technical expertise and demonstrated ability to effectively rebuild organizations to perform at a sustained level of operational excellence”.

At a dinner at the UK parliament this week, EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “I can tell you that I am absolutely confident that Hinkley Point C will be reaching a final investment decision soon.”