An EDF director opposed to the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant has resigned before a crucial board vote on the project, paving the way for the French company to approve it.
Gérard Magnin said Hinkley Point was “very risky” in his resignation letter to EDF’s chief executive.
Magnin did not attend the board meeting in Paris on Thursday where EDF’s remaining 17 directors will vote on the project. His resignation follows that of EDF’s chief financial official, Thomas Piquemal, earlier this year, which was linked to concerns about the cost of Hinkley Point.
Magnin has a background in alternative energies and is the founder of Energy Cities, an association designed to help local authorities move to newer forms of energy.
The French government, which owns 85% of EDF, proposed him as a board member in 2014. His appointment was seen as an attempt to encourage the company to invest more in renewable energy.
Magnin, however, said Hinkley Point and a proposal to buy Areva’s reactor building unit showed EDF was actually moving further towards nuclear power.
“As a board member proposed by the government shareholder, I no longer want to support a strategy that I do not agree with,” Magnin wrote in his letter to Jean-Bernard Lévy, which has been seen by Reuters.
“Let’s hope that Hinkley Point will not drag EDF into the same abyss as Areva.”
The French government had to rescue the nuclear group from bankruptcy earlier this year.
The £18bn (€21.3 bn) project is controversial in the UK and France. EDF has net debt of more than €37bn (£31bn) and unions representing the company’s workers in France are concerned that Hinkley Point could jeopardise its survival.
Critics in the UK are concerned that consumers will ultimately have to pick up the bill for the project. The National Audit Office (NAO) has said taxpayers could end up paying more than £30bn through a range of subsidies designed to support the project.
The government has agreed a strike price, a guaranteed price for the electricity generated by Hinkley Point, of £92.50 (€109.50) per megawatt hour. This is more than twice the cost of existing wholesale electricity prices.
The European Commission approved the deal in 2014, sying it was in line with EU state aid rules.
Green groups condemn commissioner Almunia’s U-turn, as the EU competition czar deems Hinkley Point C subsidies to be within state aid rules.