Four hundred jobs at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station construction site are to be axed, EDF announced yesterday.
The redundancies are a consequence of the French energy giant’s delay in making a final decision on whether or not to proceed with the project to construct Britain’s first new nuclear power station in two decades until after the general election.
In October 2013, EDF secured a long-term state guarantee with the Coalition Government over the price at which firm will be able to sell the electricity produced when the power station comes on stream in 2023.
But negotiations between the energy firm and Whitehall over the state contribution to the nuclear decommissioning costs and the debt guarantees are still on-going and now a decision will not be made until after polling day.
The unions last night urged EDF and the next government to put a priority on settling the negotiations. “The announcement of a delay in that process is disappointing, not least to those who are working on site preparing the ground” said Kevin Coyne of Unite. “It is important that the final investment decision is made as soon as possible.”
But Phil Whitehurst of the GMB union said that responsibility ultimately lay with EDF. “This is the second time this process has been initiated by EDF,” he said. “Questions now need to be answered by the French government-owned company whether they will complete the new build.”
EDF is reducing the number of construction workers at the Somerset site from 650 to 250. They have been preparing the site for construction, working on earthworks, drainage and road building. The 400 whose jobs are at risk are directly employed by a number of contractors and are in consultation.
Sources at EDF stressed that many more construction workers will ultimately be employed at the Somerset site if the project is given the green light, with total employment projected to reach a peak of 5,600 by the end of the decade.
“EDF Energy and the UK Government have made good progress on the work to finalise the agreements, which will enable a final investment decision in the coming months,” EDF said in a statement.
The entire construction project is expected to cost around £16bn. EDF’s investment partners include two state-owned Chinese companies, China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation.
The Chinese firms could end up with a 30 per cent stake in the power station.