A senior EDF Energy executive resigns over the company’s plans to build the first new nuclear power station in Britain for 25 years.
Thomas Piquemal reportedly quit as chief financial officer because he had concluded that EDF’s £18bn Hinkley Point C project to build two European pressurised reactors would damage the company’s finances.
The plant, which is expected to generate 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity, is the most expensive power project in the world.
With the country’s nuclear power plants ageing, the government guaranted that electricity generation prices would be kept high for several decades to ensure that Hinkley C was built, but Mr Piquemal’s departure shows there are still concerns about the viability of the project.
The company said he will be replaced by Xavier Girre, who joined EDF last year as chief finance officer for France.
Following a series of delays, EDF, which is 85 per cent owned by the French government, recently gave assurances that it was close to making a decision.
Labour has urged the government to draw up plans in case EDF scraps the project. Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said on Friday: “Given the power crunch we face, it is increasingly clear ministers need a plan B in case it is never built.”
At a summit last month, David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande issued a communique saying there had been “major progress” in recent months, “with a view to confirming the project”.
EDF Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy said today that a final decision would be made “soon”.
The two reactors under construction in France and Finland are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget.
Sources told Reuters last month that EDF’s unions, which have six seats on the board, would vote against the project and want the firm to delay its plans.
When the project was first announced in 2013, EDF was set to take a minority stake. Chinese investors and Areva, which is designing the reactors, took a combined stake of more than 50 per cent.
But since then, Areva has been bailed out by the French government and its reactor unit will be taken over by EDF, while EDF’s Chinese partner, CGN, said in 2015 it would take a stake of only a third, leaving EDF to shoulder two thirds of the financing.
A 55 per cent slide in EDF’s share price in the past year means the firm’s market value is lower tha the cost of the Hinkley project budget.