Decision on UK’s first new nuclear power plant comes 10 years after government approved plans for new nuclear

A final investment decision on the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset is due today.

EDF has called a board meeting for today in which it said a decision on Hinkley will be on the agenda.

The timing of the decision will have come as a surprise for many in the market, with sources telling Building earlier this month EDF informed contractors a decision was due in September.

But the decision will also be good news for contractors already working on the project or due to start on it soon.

Laing O’Rourke and Bouygues TP have bagged a £2bn deal for the main civil engineering works, while a Kier and Bam JV is currently on site as part of a £203m enabling works deal.

Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey have a contract believed to be worth at least £500m to provide cabling and electrical works, with Costain currently on site doing investigative tunnelling as part of a marine works contract.

The expected final investment decision comes after years of delay.

New nuclear power stations in the UK formally got the go-ahead in July 2006, after the Energy Challenge review from the Department for Trade and Industry concluded that new nuclear could make a “significant contribution” to securing the country’s energy needs.

It is expected the French energy giant will give the green light to Hinkley today, despite EDF’s central works council having initiated new legal action in an attempt to delay the decision. It argues that EDF’s finances are too stretched for the project to be given the go-ahead this year.

EDF agreed a deal with China General Nuclear (CGN) last October that will see EDF take a 66.5% stake in the project with CGN having a 33.5% stake.

Jean-Luc Magnaval, secretary of EDF’s central works council, told Reuters it had filed a complaint with a Paris court, which has scheduled a hearing on the case for 2 August.

Magnaval, who attends EDF board meetings in an advisory capacity, added: “We demand a suspension of the decision.”

The following February, Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF’s UK division, EDF Energy, said: “EDF will turn on its first nuclear plant in Britain before Christmas 2017 because it will be the right time.”

He added that without the new plant, “the lights will go out.”

EDF then told investors in December 2008 that the first Hinkley reactor should be generating by the end of 2017, with the second in 2018.

However, the deadline then slipped as EDF negotiated a strike price with government for the energy the plant would generate.

By the end of 2012, de Rivaz admitted a final investment decision would not be taken that year as planned, with the EDF Energy boss calling for more investors to join the project.

EDF’s group chief executive, Henri Proglio, then said the following year that a decision would by the end of 2013, as the French utility and the UK government finally reach a deal in October over a strike price. The government agrees to pay EDF £92.50/Mwh for the power generated at Hinkley Point C.

But despite the agreement, a final investment decision was still a long way off. EDF blames the delay on an EU investigation into the agreed strike price.

By April 2015, a funding deal for the project was still not agreed. This caused EDF to make up to 400 workers on the site – who were carrying out preparatory works at Hinkley in the expectation a decision would soon be made – redundant. A total of 650 workers were on site at the time.

That October, EDF group chairman Jean Bernard Levy said a final investment decision would be made “within weeks”, after Chinese investment is secured.

Around 44 weeks since that announcement in October 2015, a final investment decision is now finally expected to be taken.