Sian Crampsie

The Hinkley C nuclear power plant is to proceed after the UK government agreed a revised deal with French firm EDF.

The government put the project on hold in July to carry out a comprehensive review of the merits of the £18 billion project in south-west England.

Energy minister Greg Clark said that the government had put a series of safeguards on the deal to prevent the new nuclear plant changing hands without approval, and that a new legal framework would be developed for future foreign investment in critical infrastructure.

EDF said that the government’s decision was “good news for British consumers and industry” and that the project would deliver safe, reliable and cost competitive electricity.

“The government has looked at all the component parts of the deal and its decision confirms once again the strength of the project and its benefits to British consumers,” EDF said in a statement.

Hinkley C is being financed by EDF and Chinese firm CGN, a factor that has led to concerns being raised over national security and the extent to which foreign investment in critical infrastructure should be allowed.

“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,” said Clark. 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.”

Hinkley will meet seven per cent of Britain’s electricity needs and is the first of several new nuclear projects planned in the UK to plug the country’s forecasted energy gap.

The country’s new legal framework on critical infrastructure will ensure that after Hinkley, the British government will own a special share in all nuclear new build projects. Operators of nuclear sites will also be required to inform the Office for Nuclear Regulation of any change in ownership.

The government will also reform its approach to the ownership and control of critical infrastructure, it said.

Tony Ward, Head of Power & Utilities at EY said that it was “right and proper” that the government took a final opportunity to review the Hinkley deal. However Greenpeace said that the review – launched after EDF made its final investment decision on Hinkley – had been “a lot of hot air”.

Industrial groups welcomed the announcement. “The final green light for Hinkley Point is good news for the UK’s energy future as well as supporting jobs and growth across the South West and the country,” said Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General. “New nuclear energy will play an important role in supporting a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy supply, so it’s now time to push on with this key project.”