EDF will not go ahead with the contentious £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear project in the UK unless it wins further financial support from the French government, according to a leaked letter by the utility’s chief executive.
Jean-Bernard Lévy, who has come under fire this week for pressing ahead with the project, said in the letter seen by the Financial Times that he was negotiating to “obtain commitments from the state to help secure our financial position”.
He added he would “not engage in the [Hinkley Point] project before these conditions are met”, without going into detail on how this might occur.
Two people close to EDF said the French state could take a stake in the Hinkley Point C project, or possibly participate in a capital raising by the company, although they said that nothing had been finalised. The government has an 85 per cent stake in EDF.
The letter by Mr Lévy was intended to reassure EDF employees amid growing disquiet over its plans to build two new nuclear reactors at the Hinkley Point power station in Somerset for electricity generation. Thomas Piquemal, EDF’s finance director, resigned last week over concerns that the project could threaten the company’s future.
The Cour des Comptes, France’s state audit body, said on Thursday that the “complexity of both funding and carrying out” Hinkley Point should cause EDF to ask itself if it was the right decision.
Worries also exist over the ability of EDF to complete the Hinkley Point project on time. Two other projects in France and Finland using the same technology — the so-called European Pressurised Reactor — are both heavily delayed and over budget. Another in China has also experienced slippage, although less severe.