EDF finance chief quits over Hinkley Point nuclear plant 

Posted: March 7, 2016 by oldbrew in Energy, News, Nuclear power

Hinkley Point site [image credit: IB Times]

Hinkley Point site [image credit: IB Times]

More pain for UK nuclear plans as the finance issue erupts again and French unions claim the reactor design is still faulty. Analogies to sinking ships and rats spring to mind.

EDF has confirmed that its finance director has quit ahead of an expected final investment decision on the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. Thomas Piquemal stepped down because he feared the project could jeopardise EDF’s financial position, according to reports.

EDF shares opened 8.2% lower on Monday. Last month, Chris Bakken, the director of the project that could produce 7% of UK electricity by 2025, said he was leaving to pursue other opportunities.

EDF has provisionally appointed Xavier Girre, who joined the company last year as finance director of its French business, as the group finance chief. The company’s board is expected to finalise in April how it will fund the project after postponing the decision a number of times. The project has been plagued by delays, but publicly the firm has insisted a decision to move forward is imminent.

In October last year, EDF agreed a deal under which China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) would pay a third of the cost of the £18bn project in exchange for a 33.5% stake. But according to reports, EDF is struggling to find the cash for its remaining 66.5% stake and is seeking help from the French government, which owns 84.5% of EDF.

The company is also facing opposition from French union officials, who have suggested that investment in Hinkley Point C should be delayed until 2019. The CFE-CGC Energy union said there were problems with a similar reactor design in France that needed to be solved.

The new Hinkley plant was originally due to open in 2017, and it has come under fire for both its cost and delays to the timetable for building.

Full report: EDF finance chief quits over Hinkley Point nuclear plant – BBC News

  1. Bryan says:

    There seems to be more cost implications for Fission Reactors as they age than is generally appreciated.
    The scrapping of coal fired power plants and the reluctance to commit to gas fired power plants is ideologically driven.
    Continuing to go down this road will lead to the most expensive, unreliable, dangerous option

  2. tallbloke says:

    Mat Ridley’s and other articles here:
    I hope the link works for everyone.

  3. oldbrew says:

    An updated version of the linked BBC report has this:

    ‘Analysis: Kamal Ahmed, BBC Economics Editor

    At first take, it might appear the resignation of a company’s finance director reveals a business in crisis.

    And EDF’s share price fall this morning seems to bear that out.

    But, for supporters of the building of a new £18bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset – the world’s most expensive power project – the resignation of Thomas Piquemal looks like clearing the way for the EDF board to give the final go-ahead for the scheme.

    Mr Piquemal was widely reported as being a trenchant critic of the costly nuclear project.

    His fate appears to have been sealed last week when the French government, which largely owns EDF, confirmed that it is still backing the scheme.

    That came after the meeting between Francois Hollande and David Cameron – also an enthusiastic backer.

    On this occasion, political will has trumped any financial concerns.’

    Talkshop comment: These politicians know they will have retired from the scene if/when the financial wheels come off the project.

    ‘the world’s most expensive power project’ – and that’s before they’ve started building it.

    ‘Mr Piquemal was widely reported as being a trenchant critic of the costly nuclear project.’
    – the head bean counter reckons the numbers don’t add up, so he gets fired. What could possibly go wrong?

  4. oldbrew says:

    Telegraph notes this from 2007:

    EDF: New nuclear ‘by Christmas 2017’

    French nuclear energy giant EDF says it hopes to build Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in a generation in time to provide electricity for Britons to cook their Christmas turkeys in 2017.

    “EDF will turn on its first nuclear plant in Britain before Christmas 2017 because it will be the right time,” Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of UK division EDF Energy says.

    “It is the moment of the power crunch. Without it the lights will go out.”

    Surely Hinkley Point IS the turkey. No Christmas bird for at least the next 10 years the way things are [not] going.

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    This has all the hallmarks of of a crony capitalist scheme. It will be completed late and way over budget with lots of demands for public bailouts because the need for it will be so critical because all the alternative supplies of on demand electrical power are being eliminated …pg

  6. oldbrew says:

    A French union leader pointed out on BBC News that four of these plants are under construction, at least one for many years, and none are complete. So the UK is gambling at least £18 billion on something with no proven record but with known technical problems, at least one being serious.

    It’s bonkers and everybody knows it, or ought to.

    PARIS, Jan 28 – Intractable problems at two nuclear plants under construction in France and Finland threaten more delays to EDF’s plan to build four nuclear reactors in Britain.

  7. Fanakapan says:

    Time was when Britain was at the forefront of reactor design and build, I expect that leadership has largely retired, or even gone to meet Jesus. Another miracle from St Margaret of the Corner Shop.

    Added to which, the fact that the French G is likely to be the financial backstop on this project, which in the absence of immediate alternatives will likely go ahead despite the obvious problems, sort of gives the ‘Sovereignty’ bucket a good kicking.

    Lets add in the position of N Power (German) who look likely to be making a hefty loss, which probably signifies that all of the Big 6 will see profits slashed or going negative. And then it doesn’t need the powers of a psychic to see the massive public subsidy thats coming along, provided by a G suffering extreme dilation at the prospect of the lights going out, and its own consequent annihilation at the polls 🙂

  8. J Martin says:

    I would sooner my taxes subsidised nuclear than so called renewables.

    But why aren’t they building a proven design instead. What about the Candu ? Or perhaps we should look to the future and consider the Russian fast breeder or the Norwegian thorium reactor being built in the middle of a mountain.

  9. Bryan says:

    J Martin says “But why aren’t they building a proven design instead. ”

    The costs of decommissioning and radioactive waste storage are proving to be much higher than was generally appreciated a few years ago.

    Radioactive decay is degrading the concrete and steel structures.
    Look at the costs of the Sellafield Nuclear Plant.

  10. oldbrew says:

    Russia in talks over Algeria’s first nuclear power plant

    They plan to have it running by 2026, almost certainly ahead of any Hinkley Point opening date.
    At far less cost too.

  11. oldbrew says:


    ‘Now analysts have urged the UK Government to abandon the deal at Hinkley Point, claiming that it could save the UK taxpayer £17billion if it replaced it with a tried and tested alternative.’

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    For a politician to sell out the people and then go to work for the enriched buyer is nothing new.
    Even worse, the buyer is not able to deliver the promised solution and the people will be forced to pony up even more and more as the solution is developed. An unending profit stream to the crony capitalists that have only delivered vaporware…pg

  13. oldbrew says:

    Another nail in the coffin?

    ‘The boss of the French state-owned company behind the UK’s first new nuclear power station for 20 years has threatened to pull the plug on the £18bn project without further backing from François Hollande’s government.’

  14. oldbrew says:

    Meanwhile: ‘Fukushima disaster: Robots sent in to fix nuclear reactors have ‘died’ say owners Tepco’


  15. oldbrew says:

    Hinkley Point branded potentially risky for EDF by French auditor

    ‘Cour des Comptes urges greater study of nuclear project’s risks given poor recent investments and the fact EDF must fund likely cost overruns’