French energy managers believe power plant decision should be delayed until EDF and reactor disputes are settled


Senior managers at a major French union have written to the chair of the UK energy select committee calling for EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant to be postponed.

The Fédération Nationale des Cadres Supérieurs de l’Énergie (FNCS) – translated as the National Federation of Senior Energy Executives – union said a final investment decision on the £18bn nuclear plant in Somerset should be delayed until “better upfront industrial visibility is evidenced”.

In a letter addressed to the chair of the committee, MP Angus MacNeil, the union’s president Norbert Tangy said senior EDF managers remained convinced a final decision should be pushed back until EDF has solved a slew of problems - including a “multibillion” euro litigation.

Managers said litigation between Areva NP – the designer of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) to be used at Hinkley – and Finnish engineering, procurement and construction contractor TVO on EDF’s Olkiluoto nuclear plant in Finland “could not be settled through amicable agreement as expected”. They said the “matter remains open” and shows no sign of being resolved soon. Other issues highlighted mainly revolve around the EPR reactor to be used at Hinkley Point C.

In spring 2017, an EPR reactor being built at EDF’s nuclear power plant in Flamanville, in Normandy, France, is up for its final clearance by the French nuclear safety authority ASN. But the executives have warned that the safety authority may not give the go-ahead as they claim the top and bottom of the reactor vessel do not comply with regulations.

They said there is “no certainty that the EPR technology could be commissioned soon” and claimed a second reactor at the EDF plant in China - Taishan - could be the first EPR reactor in the world to be commissioned. Taishan 2 is expected to be operational in late 2017.

Construction on the new reactor at Flamanville began in 2007 and was expected to be up and running by 2012 - this has now been delayed until the fourth quarter of 2018.

EDF declined to comment but, last month, the firm’s chief executive Vincent de Rivaz told a House of Commons select committee that some French unions were trying to postpone the Hinkley project by up to three years. De Rivaz added: “Our position is that there is no need for a delay because the project is ready. No project has been better prepared than Hinkley Point C.”