Theresa May has approved the long-awaited £18 billion Hinkley Point nuclear power scheme, following a revised agreement with project backer EDF
The green light comes after the prime minister imposed ‘significant new safeguards’ for foreign investment in critical UK infrastructure, following concerns around national security.
EDF, the French state energy company, is financing two thirds of the nuclear power station, while the Chinese are investing the remaining £6 billion.
The government’s approval of Hinkley Point C in Somerset comes six weeks after May unexpectedly launched a review of the project resulting, it was reported, in tensions with China.
It is understood that the Chinese agreed to take the stake in Hinkley, and in a plant at Sizewell in Suffolk, in exchange for the government approving a Chinese designed and led nuclear plant at Bradwell in Essex.
Canaway Fleming Architects has been involved with the Hinkley project as lead consultant for associated development since 2008. Grimshaw was also involved in reviewing the plans for the site a couple of years ago.
While acknowledging the protests against nuclear power, Martin Canaway, director of Canaway Fleming Architects, said it was an ‘important part of the energy mix for the country’.
He said: ‘There’s no getting away from it; we need energy mix. A lot is written about whether it is the right kind of energy, the right energy source, but mix is important. Whether that is from solar, wind, nuclear, gas, tidal – it all has to be there.’
Canaway added: ‘The design of all the associated development is there to enable the most efficient way of delivering the infrastructure.’
Under the deal, EDF will need to give notice and obtain government permission if it wishes to sell its controlling stake in the scheme before construction has completed.
The agreement also means the UK government would be able to intervene in the sale of EDF’s stake once Hinkley is operational.
Following Hinkley’s construction, the government will take a ‘special’ share in all future nuclear new-build projects in the UK.
This will ensure significant stakes cannot be sold without the government’s knowledge or consent, it said in an announcement today (15 September). The strike price will remain at £92.50/MW of electricity provided by Hinkley.
Hinkley’s approval comes after years of delays to the scheme.
In July, EDF announced that it had made a final investment decision after board members voted 10 to 7 in favour of approving a deal.
However, within hours the UK government said it would review the deal further before making a decision.
The government also revealed that it had agreed that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) will require notice from developers or operators of nuclear sites of any change of ownership or part-ownership.
This will allow the government to advise or direct the ONR to take action to protect national security as a result of a change in ownership, the government said.
It added: ‘There will be reforms to the government’s approach to the ownership and control of critical infrastructure to ensure that the full implications of foreign ownership are scrutinised for the purposes of national security.
‘This will include a review of the public interest regime in the Enterprise Act 2002 and the introduction of a cross-cutting national security requirement for continuing government approval of the ownership and control of critical infrastructure.’
The government said the changes would bring the UK’s policy framework for the ownership and ’critical’ infrastructure into line with other major economies.
Business and energy secretary Greg Clark said: ’Having thoroughly reviewed the proposal for Hinkley Point C, we will introduce a series of measures to enhance security and will ensure Hinkley cannot change hands without the government’s agreement.
’Consequently, we have decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation.’
He added: ’Britain needs to upgrade its supplies of energy, and we have always been clear that nuclear is an important part of ensuring our future low-carbon energy security.’
In a previous statement, EDF said the move would see the first concrete reactor completed by mid-2019, and that it would provide 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity by 2025.