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Hinkley Point nuclear plant hit by £3 billion cost rise amid delays

Fresh storm: Reports of a delay to a new Hinkley Point nuclear plant have been denied: Matt Cardy/Getty
Fresh storm: Reports of a delay to a new Hinkley Point nuclear plant have been denied: Matt Cardy/Getty

THE controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear plant ran into further trouble today when French energy giant EDF increased the cost estimate for an already hugely expensive enterprise.

EDF, majority-owned by the French government, said the Somerset power station will now cost between £21.5 billion and £22.5 billion, an increase of between £1.9 billion and £2.9 billion.

Stuart Crooks, the managing director of Hinkley Point, said the aim is still to start delivering power in 2025 but “the risk of a delay has increased”.

Back in 2007, EDF’s then-chief executive, Vincent de Rivaz, said customers would be cooking Christmas turkeys using Hinkley electricity by 2017, which means the project is already eight years behind schedule. The extra costs will be funded by EDF and CGN of China. EDF insisted there will be no impact on either the UK taxpayer or on consumers, since the set price for electricity has been agreed with the Government.

When complete, the plant will provide around 7% of Britain’s power needs, or enough for around 6 million homes. EDF last raised the costs estimate by £1.5 billion in 2017.

Critics of the project say it would have been far cheaper if the Government had simply borrowed at today’s low rates to pay for the plant.

Meanwhile, the cost of wind and solar technologies have made the investment in Hinkley look increasingly unwise.

When she was Prime Minister, Theresa May reviewed the project but gave it the green light, with the government saying it would help meet Britain’s climate change goals.

Hinkley’s Crooks said in a letter to staff: “We remain conscious of our responsibility to shareholders and consumers. As ever, I ask you to remain focused on safety, quality, time and cost as we build a power station whose value to future generations will be immense.”

Hinkley C will be the first new nuclear power plant in the UK for three decades.

Crooks added: “Getting this far has cost more money than we anticipated. Our earthworks are complete, but challenging ground conditions meant we overspent to finish them on time.”

EDF is the biggest electricity generator in the world, employing 13000 people in the UK. It has eight nuclear power stations and more than 30 wind farms.

One of its major power construction projects, at Flamanville in France, is also delayed and over-budget. Crossrail and HS2, the two other major UK building projects, are also over-budget.