Exclusive: Funds from £18bn budget released as suppliers get back to work on nuclear power plant
EDF has released the first year of funds from its £18bn budget for Hinkley Point C and has restarted work on the nuclear power plant, despite not yet making a final investment decision on the project.
A source close to the project told Building that EDF released a “couple of hundred million” in funds last month to enable suppliers working on the early stages of the controversial scheme to restart work, including enabling contractors Kier and Bam.
An EDF spokeswoman confirmed to Building it was pressing on with work at the site with an average of 400 workers a day. She said: “Work to ensure the project’s readiness is continuing, including project planning, engineering design and commercial supply chain activities. We continue work to prepare for site remobilisation.”
The news comes as the French government yesterday promised to bailout the 85% state-owned energy company if it runs into any financial difficulty building Hinkley Point C, paving the way for a final investment decision.
France’s economics minister, Emmanuel Macron, said it would be a mistake for EDF not to build Hinkley, adding: “If there is a need to recapitalise (EDF), we will.”
Kier and Bam – which renegotiated their contract with the French energy giant last October to £203m, more than double their original contract fee – have been on and off the Somerset site with workers and equipment a number of times since originally winning the contract in 2012. The source said they would not have returned to site this time without assurances EDF intended to finally commit to the scheme.
With the enabling works being done at least they’ve got something they can sell on easily
Costain is also believed to have started investigative tunnelling works on site.
EDF recently leased office space close to the Hinkley site in Bridgwater, where suppliers working on the project are also based.
Enabling and groundwork are expected to take around 18 months, after which contractors Laing O’Rourke and Bouygues TP – who won the £2bn main civils contract in 2012 - are set to begin main construction of the plant.
The source said that if construction remains on schedule - EDF’s chosen European pressurised reactor (EPR) design has faced several delays on similar projects in France, Finland and China - Hinkley Point C is expected to be completed in 2025 now that enabling works have started.
When asked why EDF would release the budget for enabling works and start on site before the final investment decision is made, the source suggested the client could still be keeping its options open: “It makes the site more sellable and increases its market value.
“The site has already got planning, and with the enabling works being done at least they’ve got something they can sell on easily to another developer [if EDF doesn’t make a final investment decision].”
Kier referred enquiries to EDF. Bam was unavailable for comment.