The future of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, which will represent the UK’s first major nuclear project for a generation, has been cast into further doubt after one of the major investors in the site announced a number of job cuts.
EDF, one of the UK’s Big Six energy providers and a major backer of Hinkley Point, is to cut 150 of the 800 jobs on the development of Hinkley Point, which has raised speculation that the French energy giant may pull out of the project altogether.
Recently, the coalition government has been locked in discussions with EDF about its investment in the new nuclear project, with a number of key barriers needing to be overcome before concrete terms can be thrashed out.
Talks between the coalition and EDF have stalled over a failure to settle on a price for electricity and a number of other guarantees, while EDF’s attempts to reduce its overall £33 billion debt has raised questions about the wisdom of supporting the £14 billion Hinkley Point initiative, when so much uncertainty revolves around it.
Prime minister David Cameron has attempted to iron out concerns with French president Francois Hollande, but the support of Mr Hollande is far from guaranteed, as the premier has previously expressed his preference for his country’s energy suppliers to focus their efforts on investing and improving France’s power plants.
Now, after spending nearly £800 million on development, EDF announced it is “refocusing its activities at its Hinkley Point C project”, to better reflect its priorities ahead of securing the necessary finance for the project.
Further pre-construction planning work is set to continue, though the company has halted other preparations at the site, according to the Guardian, which noted that a number of hurdles will need to be overcome before the government’s ambitious plans for the project can be realised.
Time is of the essence
EDF’s two reactors at Hinkley Point would provide around 7% of the UK’s power and help to heat the homes of millions of consumers, but this will not happen unless issues such as the amount of public subsidy the plant will receive, where waste will be disposed and where the long-term support for the project will come from can be ironed out.
A senior EDF executive told the Guardian that the time is now to strike a deal or risk the Hinkley Point project being an expensive failure, to the detriment of the government, investors and the consumers the plant would provide power to.
The representative added: “We cannot afford to burn money every day, every week, every month, without a clear understanding of where it’s leading us.”