The government’s decision to quit Euratom has put a “potential timebomb” under plans to build the Hinkley C nuclear power plant, Labour’s energy spokesman has warned.
Alan Whitehead told Utility Week that he had yet to receive reassurance from ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) about the risks posed to the project by Euratom-related provisions in the contract.
The National Audit Office in a report last month raised concerns that quiting the pan-European nuclear safeguarding body could be interpreted as a legal change that could result in a revision of the terms of the Hinkley contract for difference.
This could in turn enable the contractors to secure compensation if they pull out, even if they have not built the project, said Whitehead.
“The potential is there for EDF to walk away from the deal with very large sums of money and not building the project, which would be a disaster for UK taxpayers, making the sums involved in the recent nuclear decommissioining fiasco look tiny in comparison. This is a potential timebomb.”
Responding to a written question about the project’s potential compensation arrangements, energy minister Richard Harrington, said: “The consequences of the intended withdrawal from the Euratom Treaty will be closely monitored and the department is in close consultation with the industry about its impacts.”
But Whitehead said he had no reason to doubt EDF’s current commitment to the project on the basis of the work currently going on at the Hinkley site.
David Eccles, head of communications at EDF’s Bridgewater office, told an event in Bristol last week, said that the company had already laid down approximately 35,000 tonnes of concrete so far, adding that it was being poured at a rate of 2,000 tonnes per week.
In addition, he said that around 3 million tonnes of earth had been excavated for the plant’s underground works.
And Eccles said the Hinkley site had taken its firstdelivery of rock armour for the base of sea wall, which will be 780 metres long to protect against flooding.