Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant developer EDF has announced that the plant is expected to begin operating a year later than planned in June 2027, at an estimated cost of £25 – 26bn.

Project MD Stuart Crooks has blamed pandemic disruption after conceding that the new plant will be delayed, and will cost an extra £3bn.

EDF said this would not affect the cost to consumers or taxpayers – costs will be met by EDF and China’s CGN, the two partners in the project.

In 2007 EDF predicted Hinkley C would be in operation by end–2017. When the project was finally given the go ahead in 2016, it was estimated to cost £18bn.

EDF says that it lost more than half a million days of critical work in 2020 and 2021 as the Covid pandemic forced a reduction in the number of workers allowed on the site – from around 5000 to 1500.

“For many months after that” said Mr Crooks, “we remained far below our plan for site numbers as our ability to fully ramp up activity was thwarted by the need for measures to prevent infection … [such as] safe social distancing in canteens, buses and at work [which] meant we had no choice but to become less efficient. In civil construction alone … we lost in excess of half a million individual days of critical work in 2020 and 2021.”

“Our supply chain was also hit hard and is still impacted now. In April 2020, 180 suppliers were fully shut down, but even as late as February this year, more than 60 suppliers were operating with reduced productivity due to Covid.”

“In total, the start date for Unit 1 has gone back 18 months since construction started in 2016. In such a complex project, it wouldn’t be credible to say we can measure exactly how much of this is due to Covid-19 impact, but it is clearly in excess of 12 months.”