EDF tells contractors to restart work on Hinkley Point

Source: The Guardian

EDF has told contractors at Hinkley Point to restart “unconstrained spending” in anticipation of the £18bn nuclear plant obtaining the final green light within days.

The instructions to suppliers, reported by the industry magazine Building, comes despite EDF’s unwillingness to press the last investment button at a board meeting on Wednesday.

The state-owned French group delayed the decision after last-minute pressure from its investors and unions over the cost of the scheme, but contractors in Somerset are being told to restart work, which stopped in April last year.

A source told Building: “EDF used the words ‘unconstrained spending’ to the supply chain to get the project moving. By ‘unconstrained’ they mean ‘we’re going to go on as if a decision has been made’.”

Another source said: “EDF asked us ‘if we release the budget to you, what will you do with it?’ We told them what we would do with it, and they said ‘get your plans ready to start spending this’.”

But the company, which is 85% owned by the French government, is reported by the financial daily Les Echos to be leaning on ministers to help with the demands of financing Hinkley, even though the Chinese have promised to take a 33% stake.

EDF had earlier let it be known that it wanted to reduce its stake in all the existing British reactors it owns from 80% to 50% by bringing in other private investors. Centrica, the owner of British Gas, has made clear that it does not want to increase its holdings from 20%.

Despite all this, the EDF chief executive, Jean Bernard Lévy, has twice within the past week reiterated his belief that the company is ready to proceed with Hinkley Point.

The company is now believed to be aiming for 16 February, when a board meeting and the reporting of annual financial figures are scheduled. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said it is still confident of a positive decision.

EDF is already struggling to cope with a raft of extra demands that have been imposed on it, most recently the takeover of its financially troubled engineering partner Areva.

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