Receive free UK energy updates
We will send you a myFT Daily Digest e-mail that rounds out the latest energy news in the UK every morning.
EDF has warned that it is now “urgent” for the British government to decide on the future of the £ 20 billion Sizewell C nuclear power plant, including whether China’s CGN should remain involved in the project.
Simone Rossi, head of the French arm in the UK, hopes to make a final investment decision by the end of 2022 on the Suffolk nuclear power plant on the east coast of England, which will generate enough electricity for 6 million homes , but are strongly opposed to environmental groups.
Before EDF could commit to building the plant, Rossi said it needed British ministers to settle matters, such as which partners were involved and legislation on the proposed financing model.
“I really think the time is now for all the decisions to stand together and say right, ‘Do we want to do this or not? ‘And if we want to do it, how are we going to do it? Rossi told the Financial Times. “It’s all urgent.”
The state of Britain’s new nuclear program has been greatly alleviated by the recent increase in big gas prices, which emphasized how dependent the country’s energy system is on the import of fossil fuels abroad.
Ministers want to accelerate the shift to carbon-free sources of electricity, including nuclear power.
Yet all but one of Britain’s current fleet of nuclear power stations will close at the end of the decade.
The first new nuclear power plant in a generation, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, being built by EDF, will only start up with electricity in 2026, while there are still questions about the future of several other proposed sites.
EDF would like a quick government decision on Sizewell so it can transfer Hinkley workers. Sizewell will use the same reactor design as Hinkley.
State-owned CGN has a 20 percent stake in Sizewell and has an option to participate in the construction. EDF owns the remaining 80 percent.
Rossi said CGN’s continued participation in the project was “a decision of the British government”.
The Financial Times reported in July that ministers were investigating ways to remove CGN of the UK’s nuclear projects following a deterioration in relations between London and Beijing on issues including the containment of disagreement in Hong Kong.
British officials are considering plans for the government to adopt CGN’s 20% stake in Sizewell and either sell the stake to institutional investors or float it on the stock market.
Rossi acknowledged that Sizewell’s viability could depend on investment from North American funds, which would be problematic if CGN remained involved. Washington launched CGN in 2019 on a blacklist export on allegations of theft of U.S. technology for military use.
“We will have to rely on all the supporters, including American supporters, as the absolute amount of money we have to raise is huge,” Rossi said. “We will have to be very broad to reach the market.”
Some analysts have suggested CGN could withdraw from the Hinkley project if it is excluded from the Sizewell plan.
But Rossi said he thought Sizewell could be dealt with in isolation, saying: “I see no reason why CGN would want to walk away from a good investment like Hinkley Point.”
The UK Department of Commerce has said it is trying to approve at least one new large-scale nuclear power plant “in the coming years” as nuclear power “plays an important role” while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and volatile gas exposure prices “.
It added that negotiations on Sizewell are ‘underway’ and ‘no final decision has been taken’. CGN declined to comment.