UK’s Hinkley nuclear plant in doubt as EDF finance director resigns

The UK’s plan to build the first new nuclear power station in a generation, Hinkley Point C, was thrown into confusion yesterday amid reports that the finance director of France’s EDF, the company behind the project, had resigned over the scheme.

Thomas Piquemal is reported to have stood down from his post on Thursday last week after opposing the EDF board over plans to approve the project in April, sources told the Bloomberg news agency.

EDF’s final investment decision to proceed with the plant has been delayed several times.

Piquemal had argued that pursuing what would be the world’s most expensive power project now could jeopardise the French group, which already has big debts, Bloomberg said.

The two 1,600-megawatt reactors proposed for Hinkley Point would cost about £18bn ($26bn), with China General Nuclear Power Corp. paying for a third.

Sources told Bloomberg that proceeding with the venture this year would mean that almost 60% of EDF’s equity capital would be tied up in new nuclear projects by 2018. Around 85% of EDF’s shares are owned by the French government.

EDF is currently weighed down by two other nuclear power projects that are years behind schedule and heavily over budget: Flammanville in France and Finland’s Olkiluoto 3.

EDF has borrowed billions just to pay dividends to its state shareholder in recent years and its earnings are under pressure from record low wholesale electricity prices.

Today EDF announced Piquemal’s resignation without giving details, and "provisionally" appointed Xavier Girre as Group Senior Executive Vice President, Group Finance.

Photograph: Artist’s render of the proposed Hinkley Point C power station (EDF)

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