Hinkley Point C could be delayed to 2031 and cost up to £35bn, says EDF

The owner of Hinkley Point C has blamed inflation, Covid and Brexit as it announced the nuclear power plant project could be delayed by a further four years, and cost £2.3bn more.

The plant in Somerset, which has been under construction since 2016, is now expected to be finished by 2031 and cost up to £35bn, France’s EDF said. However, the cost will be far higher once inflation is taken into account, because EDF is using 2015 prices.

The latest in a series of setbacks represents a huge delay to the project’s initial timescale. In 2007, the then EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said that by Christmas in 2017, turkeys would be cooked using electricity generated from atomic power at Hinkley. When the project was finally given the green light in 2016, its cost was estimated at £18bn.

“Like other major infrastructure projects, we have found civil construction slower than we hoped and faced inflation, labour and material shortages, on top of Covid and Brexit disruption,” said Stuart Crooks, the project’s managing director, in a message to staff.

Crooks said: “Running the project longer will cost more money and our budget has also been affected by rising civil construction costs. It is important to say that British consumers or taxpayers won’t pay a penny, with the increased costs met entirely by shareholders.”

EDF had previously said that the first reactor unit at the nuclear site would be due to be complete by June 2027, with a 15-month buffer period which was likely to be used – putting its completion at September 2028, and a further year for the second unit. It costs were estimated between £25bn and £26bn, and this was later revised up to £32.7bn in February 2023.

EDF gave three scenarios, ranging from becoming operational is 2029, to delays pushing this back to 2031.

It said that the cost of completing Hinkley will be between £31bn and £34bn, although if completion is delayed to 2031 costs would rise to £35bn.

In December it emerged EDF’s partner in the project, China General Nuclear, had halted funding for Hinkley. The move came after the government took over CGN’s stake in Hinkley’s proposed sister site, Sizewell C in Suffolk, stripping the Chinese state-owned company of its role in the project.

The latest financial estimates are based on accounting in 2015 figures, meaning the total cost of the project could be far higher when inflation over the last decade is factored in. Hinkley’s ballooning costs have proved controversial with French taxpayers, which are picking up the tab.

Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C are expected to herald a new era of nuclear plants touted by the government.

Last year the government launched a delivery body, Great British Nuclear, with the aim of accelerating the development of new nuclear projects. Earlier this month ministers set out plans for out for the “biggest nuclear power expansion in 70 years”.

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However, the Hinkley Point C delay will add to concerns over project delays and costs, as well as skills in an industry earmarked to deliver a quarter of the national electricity demand by 2050.

Crooks wrote: “Dome lift happened 24 months later than we had planned when we began in 2016. Of that delay, 15 months was due to the global pandemic. So, beyond Covid, we’ve lost nine months since we started. That’s not perfect, but for the first nuclear plant to be built in Britain since 1995, it’s not bad.”

Crooks said that project was “well past the halfway mark” and “many risks are now behind us”.

EDF said in January it would delay the shutdown of four of its UK nuclear reactors for at least two years and increase investment in its British nuclear fleet.


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