More EDF hesitation over Hinkley

23 June 2016

Senior managers at EDF have told MPs in the UK that they remain convinced that the French state-controlled group should postpone the GBP £18bn ($26bn) Hinkley Point C NPP project until it has solved a litany of problems, including the reactor design and multibillion-euro lawsuits over delays on similar schemes, the Guardian reported on 20 June.

A letter from the Fédération Nationale des Cadres Supérieurs de l'Énergie (FNCS) union to Angus MacNeil, the chairman the UK parliament's energy and climate change committee, "advises to delay the FID until better upfront industrial visibility is evidenced". In April, EDF said it was delaying a final investment decision (FID) until September while it consulted with trade unions, but engineers and other middle managers reportedly remain opposed.

Problems highlighted by the senior managers at EDF include:

  • Areva NP, the designer of the European pressurised reactor (EPR) planned for Hinkley, "is currently facing a difficult situation".
  • The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) may not approve the EPR being constructed at Flamanville in north-west France because of various anomalies.
  • There may be "identical flaws" in an Areva EPR being built at Taishan 1 in China.
  • The scandal over falsification of parts from Areva's Le Creusot potentially put safety checks at risk.
  • Multibillion-euro litigation between Areva and the Finnish energy group TVO over delays to the EPR being built at the Olkiluoto NPP remains unsettled.
  • An EDF offer to purchase Areva expired on 31 March, leaving "governance uncertainties upon the implementation of the Hinkley Point C project".

Others problems include concern expressed by ASN at a hearing on 25 May that any resolution of EDF and Areva's twin financial problems could take considerable time. The energy and climate change committee is investigating the financing of NPPs and has twice called EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz, to explain the delays at Hinkley. He told the committee in May: "The current position of some of the French trade unions is to postpone the project for two to three years. Our position is that there is no need for a delay because the project is ready."

Areva recently announced a restructuring aimed at isolating the financial commitments to its much-delayed and over-budget EPR project in Finland. An Areva spokeswoman, asked about the latest internal restructuring, was unable to say when EDF will take over the Areva NP arm of the business, which oversees reactor designs.



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