EDF’s plans to build a nuclear reactor at the Hinkley site in Somerset have hit yet another roadblock as it has emerged that a worker’s union have come out saying that they are likely to vote to oppose the plans.
Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight, the secretary of EDF’s workers’ committee, Jean-Luc Magnaval, said that the body he represents has several reservations about the nature of the project.
He argued that without more work done to improve the various aspects of the project that he is concerned with, then he and the committee are likely to vote against its completion.
He said: “We want something that will work. We wish that EDF was as keen to improve the project as they are to start work on it.
“We have reservations about several aspects of the project: organisation, supply chain, installation and procurement.
“The trade union is unlikely to give its blessing to the project in its current state.”
While EDF have been doing all they can to impress upon unions, investors and the general public alike that the project, which is set to cost around £18 billion is commercially viable, despite the company struggling with its financial situation as it stands.
However, Magnaval has said that what his union has been told and shown so far is not enough to convince them to support the project.
He said: “We are not reassured by the documents we have received. We have been given a marketing folder, not the full information we require. We got the documents on 9 May – we are sending EDF a request for more explanations.”
Magnaval’s concern is based partly on EDF’s finances, and partly on precedent set by the company’s latest two nuclear projects, one in Finland and one in France, which are both far over budget, and have been subject to several delays. Both of these plants are built using the same core, EPR design as Hinkley, and so the need to make sure that the latter does not fall prey to the same fate is pressing.
Financially, EDF’s balance sheet does not currently support the level of expense required to fund Hinkley, and they are in the process of trying to arrange for sufficient investment.
An investment deal with Chinese state backed nuclear company CGN is more or less secured, but this only accounts for 33% of the overall cost. Funding for the remaining 67% is still yet to be sourced.
Magnaval said: “It is…necessary, in the interest of all, that EDF follows due process before committing itself to an investment of this magnitude. The consultation of the central works committee brings legal robustness on the decision.”
The UK government has currently promised EDF a guaranteed price per KwH for the energy generated at Hinkley, which is something the company have often cited as a sign of viability once it’s built.
French economy minister Emmanuel Macron wrote to the UK government last week to provide as much reassurance as he could that the French government, which owns 85% of EDF, is still fully behind the project.