The UK government is carrying out a progress assessment of the Hinkley Point nuclear plant project but played down reports of concern over potential delays.
France’s EDF was chosen to build Britain's first new nuclear plant in decades as part of a £16bn deal late last year, but the company announced a new one-year delay in the construction of an Areva-designed EPR reactor in Flamanville, France – the same kind of reactor being built at Hinkley
The Times reported today that the government was carrying out a "secret review" of the project due to concerns over potential delays which had grown after Tuesday’s announcement, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the assessment, which will also review costs, was unrelated.
"We constantly monitor investment projects to make sure they're delivered on time and within budget," a spokeswoman said. "EDF Energy have opened their books to allow our expert external advisers to challenge and verify the projected costs of constructing, operating and decommissioning the power station, but this is nothing new."
The development of EPR reactors – a third-generation pressurised water reactor design – has been beset with delays. Construction on the first EPR in Olkiluoto, Finland, started in 2005 and it had originally been scheduled to go live in 2009, but that is now expected to happen in late 2018.
But a spokesman for EDF said the British assessment was a normal process that the government followed for all investment projects, and was not specific to Hinkley Point.
Liberum utility analyst Peter Atherton also said such reviews were normal practice. "The government hasn't signed its final contract (with EDF) yet so it makes sense for them to be carrying out several final checks before this happens," he said.
The project in south-west England, which was subject to an EU competition investigation that meant final approval for the project was only given last month, is expected to cost around £16bn and start producing electricity in 2023.
Work is already well underway after EDF decided to begin to prepare the construction site at its own risk in March, pending the EU’s decision.