Delay blow for Hinkley jobs

How Hinkley Point C might look.

How Hinkley Point C might look. - Credit: Archant

The prospect of dozens, possibly hundreds of jobs across Sedgemoor and North Somerset at the planned £18billion Hinkley Point C nuclear plant could be delayed for at least two more years, according to an expert on the project.

The long-delayed power plant was initially set to receive final approval in 2010, but has been subject to a raft of setbacks, which this week saw Thomas Piquemal, boss of French energy giants and the plant’s owners EDF, step down.

District councils in North Somerset and Sedgemoor have already signalled their optimism for the economic impact on the whole of Somerset if the plant is given the green light.

North Somerset Council has employed a liaison officer specifically to work with the project, and said this week it ‘recognised the complexity’ of the plant’s construction, which has already been through six years of delays.

But Steve Thomas, a professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, told the Mercury around £13billion of the plant’s financing is yet to be agreed, and could remain that way until 2018.

He said: “The loan guarantees which make up about 70 per cent of the money for the project were originally dependent on another nuclear plant in France, called Flamanville, going ahead by the end of 2020.

“But the reactor vessels for that plant are currently being scrutinised because they have anomalies in them – and the report on that won’t be finished this year, and may not be finished next year either.

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“That 2020 clause has since been quietly deleted, but we don’t know why or what has replaced it.”

When contacted by the Mercury, North Somerset Council said the wait would allow businesses to ‘build up their track record’, with the plant unlikely to be online before at least 2024.

A spokesman said: “The council recognises the complexities involved in getting a project like Hinkley off the starting block, so we are taking a longer-term view.

“We are working with our partners in the public and private sector to make sure our businesses and skilled labour force are able to take full advantage of all the projects in the South West, such as Hinkley and other nuclear-related investment programmes such as Oldbury.

“We also need to recognise that these projects also have a long lead time which provides a great opportunity for local businesses to build up their track record and credentials.”