Doubts grow over planned UK nuclear plant

The planned site has attracted its fair share of anti-nuclear demonstrators. [Global 2000/Flickr]

EDF’s Chief Financial Officer, Thomas Piquemal, has allegedly resigned due to financial concerns about the planned nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom. EURACTIV Germany reports.

In a statement released last night (6 March), the company said that Piquemal had tendered his resignation last week. Company sources said that he had serious doubts about the feasibility of the project. EDF declined to comment on the details of the issue.

The French company is currently involved in the construction of a new nuclear power plant with two reactors in southwest England. It is set to be the United Kingdom’s first new nuclear installation in more than two decades.

EDF plans to finance two-thirds of the project, with the remainder of the funding provided by the China General Nuclear Power Group. The cost of the project, which will include the construction of two pressurised water reactors, is slated to be over €20 billion.

Energy providers sue Commission over Hinkley Point subsidy

An alliance of green energy providers and municipal utilities in Germany and Austria have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over subsidies for the planned British nuclear power station Hinkley Point C. EURACTIV Germany reports.

A final decision on investment is still pending, but in the middle of February, EDF announced that it hopes to begin construction “very soon”, despite a completion deadline of 2017 being initially tabled.

Unions have already called upon EDF to postpone the project, as there are fears that financing the project would put the company in serious jeopardy. EDF is 84.5% state-owned.

However, on Thursday (3 March), representatives from both France and the UK insisted that the project remains “a pillar” of Anglo-French relations and is a “crucial element” of British energy policy.

French Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron called the construction of the nuclear power plant a “very good investment” for EDF.

Auditors find that German nuclear providers can afford phase-out

A German government-initiated “stress test” of nuclear power providers’ capacity to pay for the country’s nuclear phase-out has been released. The verdict is positive, but not entirely certain. EURACTIV’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

The project has caused controversy at a wider EU level after Austria challenged the European Commission’s decision last year to allow Westminster to finance construction with state-aid. The UK promised the French company a guaranteed energy for up to 35 years.

Austria’s Chancellor, Werner Faymann, appealed the EU executive’s decision, saying the “subsidies are there to support modern technologies that lie in the interest of all EU member states. This is not the case with nuclear power.”

Austria decided to ban nuclear fission in 1977. In 1997, its parliament passed legislation that maintains the alpine republic’s status as an anti-nuclear country. Its appeal is still pending and could take years to resolve.

If built, Hinkley would be the first British nuclear reactor since Sizewell B in 1995. Due to the 35-year length of its operating contract and the 10 years it would take to build, its cost and policy implications stretch far into the future.

The deal allows French-owned electricity generator EDF to be guaranteed £92.50 per megawatt hour over the 35-year life of the Hinkley plant.

This subsidy, twice the current price of electricity, will be paid out of household energy bills.

Concerns about nuclear power in the UK, perhaps surprisingly, have remained unaffected in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. According to a comprehensive survey, concerns about nuclear power decreased between 2005 and 2013.

The proportion of people who were fairly or very concerned dropped from 58% in 2005 and 54% in 2010 to 47% in 2011 and 2013.

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