Government review into Hinkley Point C risks putting off investors in other nuclear projects

The future of the UK’s entire £80bn nuclear new build industry is being put at risk by the government review into Hinkley Point C, a leading nuclear expert has told Building.

World-renowned nuclear expert Mycle Schneider - who advises the European Parliament and has advised the UK, France, Germany and Belgium governments on nuclear projects - warned each delay at Hinkley is further diminishing the attractiveness for investors in other power plants.

Speaking to Building, Schneider said: “Don’t look at these projects in an isolated way. With every delay, the probability for them to see the light shrinks.”

Other planned nuclear plants include the £14bn Wylfa Newydd in Wales, £10bn Moorside in Cumbria, and further down the line Bradwell in Essex and Sizewell C in Suffolk.

But Schneider also warned that the Hinkley scheme had an “unrealistic” timetable. His concerns centre on whether the reactor can be built to the schedule outlined by EDF. Three other schemes, in France, Finland and China, using the same European Pressurised Reactor technology planned for Hinkley, are years behind schedule.

Schneider’s comments come after the £18bn power plant was thrown into chaos last week when the government announced it would review the project, just minutes after EDF approved funding at a board meeting in Paris. Other experts also warned the government’s vision for a new fleet of nuclear power stations is in danger if Hinkley is abandoned.

A source close to EDF and Hinkley said the project was “critical” for attracting investors in other nuclear power plants. The source said: “Many [in the nuclear industry] see the EDF project as critical to setting the path for others to follow on from.

“The review is a massive undermining of investors into other nuclear projects.”

Schneider - who is a lead author of the annual World Nuclear Status Report - said he expected Hinkley to still go ahead but predicted it will not begin operating until at least 2029 - four years later than EDF’s planned opening in 2025 - because of the reactor technology EDF wants to use.

He said: “I think there’s a big chance they’ll put shovels in the ground. It is too difficult for the governments to admit that this project is too big, too complex and too expensive.”