Hinkley Point nuclear power talks reach 'critical stage'
Hinkley Point’s nuclear power plans are under threat, as talks between owner EDF and the Government reach crisis point, and could fail at any time, according to Tim Yeo.
In comments reported in The Daily Telegraph, the chairman of the Energy Select Committee said: “The talks have reached a critical stage,” adding he believed they were likely to conclude either way “in the next fortnight”.
The sticking point has for a long time been over the price that EDF will be guaranteed in return for energy – seen by many as a subsidy, which was rejected as part of the Coalition agreement.
Mr Yeo’s stark warning of the breakdown – which puts hundreds of potential jobs at risk – came as EDF said it was scaling back its £14bn project for a third reactor at Hinkley Point “until there is greater clarity around its negotiations with the Government”.
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This would “have an impact on recruitment and jobs”, EDF said, understood to mean the loss of 150 jobs – about one-fifth of the project’s workforce.
Under plans devised by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, EDF will receive a long-term contract guaranteeing a price for the electricity it generates from Hinkley Point. The price will be subsidised through levies on all UK consumer energy bills.
But the Treasury, which is heavily involved in the negotiations, has taken a tough line over the returns EDF should be allowed.
EDF has said it wants a deal by the end of this month, after an original December deadline was missed.
Mr Yeo said he believed EDF felt that “if they are not going to agree now, why would they be any different in three months’ time?” and “all they are doing is, perhaps, throwing good money after bad”.
Failure of the talks would be “a terrible setback, not just to the nuclear industry but for British energy policy”, effectively meaning Britain would have no new nuclear power plants until the mid-2020s at the earliest, he said.