20 Jun (NucNet): Senior managers at EDF have told British MPs that a final investment decision (FID) on the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear project should be delayed until problems including the reactor design and “multi-billion litigation” over the Olkiluoto-3 project in Finland have been resolved.
The letter from EDF managers to the UK parliament’s energy and climate change committee is a setback for the proposed £18bn (€23bn, $26bn) nuclear station in Somerset, England. The station is a flagship of the government’s energy policy and is intended to provide seven percent of Britain’s electricity from about 2025.
In April, the state-controlled French company said it was delaying the FID until September while it consulted with trade unions.
A letter dated 13 June and addressed to Angus MacNeil, the chairman of the committee, from the Fédération Nationale des Cadres Supérieurs de l’Énergie (FNCS) union, “advises to delay the FID until better upfront industrial visibility is evidenced”.
Outstanding problems highlighted by in the letter include:
- Areva NP, the designer of the European pressurised water reactor (EPR) planned for Hinkley Point, “is currently facing a difficult situation”.
- The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) may not approve operation of the Flamanville-3 EPR under construction in northwest France due to various anomalies with the reactor vessel bottom and the reactor vessel head.
- There may be “identical flaws” in an Areva EPR being built at Taishan-1 in China.
- Litigation between Areva and the Finnish energy group TVO over delays to the Olkiluoto-3 EPR remain unsettled.
- An EDF offer to purchase Areva expired on 31 March, leaving “governance uncertainties upon the implementation of the Hinkley Point C project”.
The letter says that on 25 May, ASN declared at an annual hearing in the French parliament that financial and economic challenges that both EDF and Areva are facing would be “time consuming”. The necessary reorganisations “would need long delays before a proper recovery happens” and ASN would prioritise regulatory oversight of the existing fleet rather than any new project.
According to the letter, ASN is concerned that while EDF is dedicating its efforts to new nuclear projects, the financing of safety improvements for the normal operation of the French nuclear fleet could be delayed or even given up.
The letter says “heavy evidence” still needs to be brought prior to further commitments, in order to make those commitments “gain robustness and reliability”.
On 7 June, three French workers unions sent a letter to energy minister Ségolène Royale asking for clarification about the “orientation” of the French nuclear industry.
Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive officer of EDF’s UK subsidiary EDF Energy told MPs last month that he could not give a definite time for when the company will make the FID.
Mr de Rivaz was called to reappear before the committee after indicating at an appearance in March that the FID could be taken by early May. The committee asked him to explain why that had not happened.
The letter is online: http://bit.ly/1Uc8N0F