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Hinkley Point: Pressure grows at EDF

Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C plant Image copyright PA
Image caption The new plant is planned to be built next to two existing facilities at Hinkley Point in Somerset

A board member at French energy firm EDF has said he will vote against its plan to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in the UK.

Christian Taxil, who represents the CFE-CGC union on the board, said conditions were "not right" for the £18bn project.

The same union has previously suggested that investment in Hinkley Point C should be delayed until 2019.

It said there were problems with a similar reactor design in France.

Last week, French economy minister Emmanuel Macron said EDF would now make a final investment decision on the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor in early May.

Mr Taxil expressed his opposition in a letter to EDF employees. He said EDF's weak financial position, technical issues and the current state of the energy market were all factors that had influenced him.

Delay urged

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that some EDF engineers have expressed renewed doubts about the reactor technology.

In an internal company document, leaked to the Financial Times, they argued that a redesign was needed in order to make the plant less complex and less expensive.

Instead of pledging that the plant would be operational in 2025, they said, the company should adopt a more "realistic" date of 2027.

In response to the FT article, EDF issued a statement denouncing "unfounded rumours and fanciful stories".

The firm added: "EDF refutes these rumours and confirms that the date of first operation of the first reactor is fixed at the end of 2025 and that no delay is anticipated.

"EDF regards this anonymous press campaign as seriously harmful to our interests, as well as the interests of the industry and to jobs in France and Europe."

Funding fears

EDF, which is 85% French state-owned, has yet to outline how it will fund the project.

In October last year, EDF agreed a deal under which China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) would pay a third of the cost of the project in exchange for a 33.5% stake.

But EDF has been struggling to find the cash for its remaining 66.5% stake.

Earlier this month, the company's chief executive, Jean-Bernard Levy, said that the financial context was "challenging" and that he was negotiating with the French government to secure more funding.

The UK government has been criticised for guaranteeing a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour of electricity - more than twice the current cost - for the electricity Hinkley produces for 35 years.

The UK government has said it is "committed" to Hinkley.

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