Deal between EDF and government for £10bn nuclear power station could come as early as next week
A deal between the government and French utility firm EDF giving the go-ahead to the construction of the £10bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is expected as early as next week, according to separate sources close to the negotiations.
This comes despite public comments this month by EDF chief executive Henri Proglio casting doubt on the timescale for a deal, and last week’s revelation that a redundancy consultation has been started with site workers.
Sources say the parties aim to reach an agreement in “early May”, with a deal possible next week.
The government and EDF have been at loggerheads since last year over the price the government will guarantee EDF receives for power generated by Hinkley, known as the “strike price”.
However it is understood a strike price of between £95-£99/MWh has now been accepted by the government, guaranteed for 35 years, although one source said it was still to be resolved whether
some or all of this price will be subject to inflation.
The government is also understood to be still pushing for the chance for UK investors to buy into the scheme.
The news comes as it emerged that the National Trust of Ireland has begun a legal challenge against the UK government over its decision to approve the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.
The plant was granted planning permission by energy secretary Ed Davey last month.
However, the trust (an independent environmental charity known as An Taisce in Irish) has said the Irish people should have been consulted before the UK government granted approval because of the proximity of the scheme to the Irish coast.
Its spokesman said the proposed plant is as close to the Irish coast as it is to London, and is closer to Dublin than it is to Leeds.
An Taisce has lodged papers at London’s High Court, challenging the government’s “legal compliance” with the European Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.
The directive requires that affected EU members states are informed and consulted during the planning stage of infrastructure projects that could have a significant impact on the environment.
An Taisce said its legal challenge was focused not on the construction of the power plant itself, but on the importance of carrying out a proper public consultation and enforcing compliance with environment law.
The trust’s director of operations, James Nix, told the BBC: “This case is not about interfering with the right of the UK authorities to make their own decisions, nor about being pro- or anti-nuclear.
“It is about ensuring that the rights and interests of the Irish public and their concern for their environment are not excluded from those decisions, and that the Irish public is properly consulted in accordance with the law on a project of this nature.”
In a later interview with the Irish state broadcaster, RTE, Nix called on the Irish government - which is opposed to nuclear power - to become more active in discussing Hinkley.
In response to An Taisce’s judicial review, a spokesperson for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it was considering the challenge and would respond in due course but insisted the decision-making process on Hinkley “took full account of applicable EU and other international law”.
“The secretary of state’s decision to consent Hinkley Point C was in line with the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation,” the spokesperson added.