May facing questions over delay to new nuclear power station

Handout photo issued by EDF Energy of the concrete process trial pour at the Hinkley Point C site in January 2015. Photo : Geoff Pagotto/EDF Energy/PA
Handout photo issued by EDF Energy of the concrete process trial pour at the Hinkley Point C site in January 2015. Photo : Geoff Pagotto/EDF Energy/PA
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THERESA MAY has come under fire for the Government’s shock move to further delay a decision on building Hinkley Point power station, with warnings it could be “potentially disastrous”.

The delay to the nuclear power plant, which appears to have been ordered by the new Prime Minister, is in marked contrast to the careful political wooing of the French and Chinese governments by the previous administration.

Undated handout photo issued by EDF Energy of a CGI image of Hinkley Point C.   Photo: EDF Energy/PA Wire  .

Undated handout photo issued by EDF Energy of a CGI image of Hinkley Point C. Photo: EDF Energy/PA Wire .

Former prime minister David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne had worked to get the largely state-owned French energy giant EDF to build the power plant, with around a third of the investment coming from the Chinese.

Unions said jobs could now be lost and the move was not the right signal to send to potential investors following the vote to leave the European Union.

However some campaign groups have praised the decision.

The decision to pull back from finalising the £18bn project was being laid at the door of 10 Downing Street, although new Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark was said to want time to study the details of the deal.

Justin Bowden, the GMB union’s national secretary for energy said: “Theresa May’s decision to review the go-ahead on HPC is bewildering and bonkers. After years of procrastination, what is required is decisive action not dithering and more delay.”

The Prospect union is writing to the Government calling for an urgent meeting, saying the delay was “chaotic and potentially disastrous”.

Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “The Government’s decision to further delay the project is incomprehensible.”

Claire Jakobsson, head of energy and environment policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Further delays in approving Hinkley C only serve to highlight the scale of this deal. We urgently need a clear energy strategy from Government about how we ensure long-term energy security of supply that is both low carbon and affordable to consumers.”

Documents were expected to be signed today and senior EDF officials were set to give interviews. But the Government pulled back from any signing ceremonies, prompting fresh question marks about the start of the much-delayed project. Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK needs a reliable and secure energy supply and the Government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix.

“The Government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn.”

Some people have welcomed the decision. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Considering the vast scale of this project, and the high price asked for the power generated, it is only sensible for Greg Clark to pause before making his decision.

The IoD is a firm supporter of building new nuclear plants to generate reliable, low-carbon energy, but the Government is right to scrutinise the value of such long-term investments carefully.”

John Sauven, Greenpeace’s executive director, said: “Theresa May now has a chance to stop this radioactive white elephant in its tracks. She should look at the evidence and see that this deal would be a monumental disaster for taxpayers and bill payers.”