EDF boss confident Hinkley Point C nuclear plant will be built

The Hinkley Point A nuclear power station in Somerset. EDF is confident the new £18bn plant will get the green light. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA
Nuclear power project thrown into doubt late on Thursday after UK government announced fresh review

Graham Ruddick, Anushka Asthana and Kim Willsher

Friday 29 July 2016 14.50 BST

The boss of EDF says he is still confident about Hinkley Point C being built despite the UK government throwing the nuclear power plant into doubt by launching a fresh review.

Jean-Bernard Levy, the chief executive of EDF, said on Friday he had no doubt about the government’s support for the £18bn project.

The board of EDF approved Hinkley Point C by 10 votes to seven at a meeting on Thursday, but the UK government then announced it would conduct another review of the controversial project and announce its decision in the early autumn.

Analysis Why have ministers delayed final approval for Hinkley Point C?

Possible explanations include fears over China’s involvement, trying to renegotiate costs and looking to scrap nuclear project

Greg Clark, the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, said the government would “now consider carefully all the component parts of this project”.

However, Levy played down the delay. “There is no comment to make. The statement made by Mr Clark is perfectly clear,” he said. “I have no doubt about the support of the British government led by Mrs May.”

Nonetheless, Levy confirmed he had not been warned about the government’s review and only found out when he saw the announcement on the internet. EDF’s UK chief executive, Vincent De Rivaz, was expected in Somerset on Friday morning alongside senior company officials to give interviews about the project. The event was cancelled after the government’s unexpected intervention.

The Guardian understands that there would have been no review under the former government, led by David Cameron and with Amber Rudd as energy secretary, as a decision had already been made to sign off the project. Sources stressed that this response had come from the new prime minister, Theresa May, and her new ministerial team.

May’s joint chief of staff, Nick Timothy, criticised the project last year because of the funding it was receiving from China. China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has taken a 33% stake in the project alongside EDF.

Timothy wrote on the ConservativeHome website in October 2015, that it was “baffling” that the government was allowing Chinese state firms to invest in sensitive infrastructure and that “rational concerns about national security are being swept to one side because of the desperate desire for Chinese trade and investment”.

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