Construction of a new nuclear reactor in Flamanville, France, is already six years behind schedule. Image: schoella via Wikimedia Commons
LONDON, 21 March, 2016 – The deeply troubled European nuclear industry, dominated by the huge French state-owned company EDF, home is now surviving only because of massive public subsidies from the French, British and Chinese governments.
The depth of the financial problems that EDF is facing was underlined last week by the resignation of its finance director, Thomas Piquemal.
He believes that building the world’s most expensive nuclear power plant – at Hinkley Point in southwest England – could threaten the viability of the group, whose finances are already stretched to breaking point, and so he decided he would leave.
Within days, both the UK prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, François Hollande, pledged to support the building of the £18 billion plant, despite the fact that the economies of the project look disastrous.
They did so in response to a letter from EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy, which said the project could not go ahead without a massive injection of new capital by the French government.
Immediately, Emmanuel Macron, the French economy minister, made it clear that EDF would be bailed out. He dismissed concerns in both countries about the high cost of the project and signalled the French government’s willingness to prop up EDF to enable it to complete the job, whatever it took.
“If we need to recapitalise, we will do it,” he said. “If we need to renounce dividend payments again, we will do it.”
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