EDF to miss its own deadline for Hinkley Point nuclear decision
French energy giant does not expect to take final investment decision on Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation until the autumn, missing its own target of July
EDF expects to miss its own deadline for deciding whether to build Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, the Telegraph can disclose.
The French energy giant announced in October that it planned to take a final investment decision on the £16bn Hinkley Point C plant by July, after striking a landmark subsidy deal with government.
But it now believes that an ongoing European Commission investigation into whether the subsidies are illegal state aid will not be fully resolved until autumn, forcing its decision on the Somerset plant back until then.
The delay could threaten EDF’s plans to deliver first power from the plant in 2023 – a timescale it had said was “subject to a final investment decision by July 2014”.
It also pointed out many key details of the deal, including a £10bn-plus loan guarantee from the Treasury, could not be scrutinised as they were yet to be finalised. It is understood the loan guarantee may not be finalised until May.
Amid intense scrutiny of the Hinkley plan, EDF is also lobbying strongly against a long-term freeze of the UK’s rising carbon tax, which it fears would weaken the case for Hinkley by pushing up the bill for direct subsidies for the plant.
Under October’s deal, EDF has been guaranteed a price for the power the plant generates of £92.50/MWh, almost double the current market price for power, with the difference subsidised through levies on consumer energy bills.
A rising UK carbon tax would push up the market power price, reducing the total direct “top-up” subsidy to Hinkley and potentially making the deal more palatable to politicians and the EC alike.
But under pressure to tackle rising energy bills the Chancellor now is expected to announce a freeze of the carbon tax in next week’s Budget.
EDF – whose existing nuclear power plant fleet would also benefit significantly from the rising carbon tax – is understood to be urging the Chancellor to guarantee that any freeze would last no more than a two years and that the tax would then revert to its upwards trajectory.
The company, which is still in talks with potential investors to take stakes in the Hinkley Point project, also argues that a policy u-turn on the carbon tax would damage the UK’s attractiveness.
EDF has been at pains to insist it can deliver Hinkley “on time and on budget”, despite its Flamanville reactor in France being dogged by cost blowouts and years of delays.
However, it has already publicly set and then missed a string of deadlines for Hinkley, which was once supposed to be running by 2017, while the cost has “rocketed hugely”, according to former partner Centrica.
A damning 70-page critique published by the EC in January raised a series of concerns with the subsidy deal, arguing that it may be unnecessary, risked handing EDF excess profits and could severely distort competition.It said that total public subsidy could reach £17bn – more expensive than the plant itself.
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EDF chooses Hydratight for new framework agreement
Hydratight has just completed the first package of steam generator tooling as part of the recently secured six-year frame agreement with Électricité de France (EDF), France’s main electricity generation and distribution company, which manages all of the country’s functioning nuclear power facilities.
Hydratight has been EDF’s preferred provider for the previous six years during which time the company has supplied products and services to ensure the safe running and up-time of France’s nuclear power plants. This has included providing multi stud tensioning systems and manway lifting devices.
Gavin Coopey from Hydratight commented: “Over the last six years we have grown and developed with EDF. The team recognised our expertise and capabilities and this is what won us the new agreement.
“We have an excellent working relationship with EDF and all of the team are looking forward to continuing with what has proved to be a very productive agreement for both companies.
“France is a very important market to be involved with in the nuclear energy sector and we are delighted that EDF have chosen to again trust Hydratight as a chosen supplier.”
France derives nearly 75% of its electricity from nuclear power plants, making it the most nuclear reliant country in the world.
Sellafield nuclear plant given the all-clear after ‘elevated levels of radioactivity’ detected
The Sellafield nuclear plant has been given the all-clear after “elevated levels of radioactivity” were detected on Friday morning.
More than 10,000 non-essential staff were told to stay at home following problems at the site in Cumbria, which is the biggest nuclear site in the UK.
A perimeter alarm was triggered at the north of the site, leading to buildings being checked by safety staff, but it was later discovered the higher than normal levels were due to “naturally occurring background radon”.
It was the first time the site has been run on limited staff for safety reasons in recent memory, although a large number of staff were also told to stay away due to heavy snow last March.
A statement said: “Sellafield Ltd can confirm that the radioactivity detected by one of our in-air monitors overnight is not attributable to any issue or problem with any of our operations on site.