EDF HAS postponed building Hinkley C creating a massive economic uncertainty across Somerset and Bridgwater in particular, according to reports.

Pressure has been building on the French Government funded company with the French economy in trouble, issues over building the reactor and the Chinese Government backers also facing financial problems in the totalitarian Communist state.

Vincent de Rivaz came under pressure from the Bridgwater Mercury last October when he was vigorously questioned at the opening of Cannington Court.

He failed to give a date for the Financial Investment Decision (FID). That date eventually was given as today, January 27, but reports in the French media say that once again the decision will be put off until February 15, or later. However EDF said they had not announced the FID would be made today and it was media speculation about the date and the FID would be made soon. They said it had never been said Hinkley C would be on today’s meeting agenda.

The area’s MP Ian Liddell Grainger said he had spoken to the energy minister Amber Rudd who said the Government were “relaxed” about the delays.

He said: “She’s been in touch with the French and we are continuing as we are. We’ve had a big Tier 1 meeting in Bridgwater and have got people back on site at Hinkley doing their job, so I’m not put out. We’ve had speculation from day one and that’s not changed. It’s a complicated project and it is a French Government company who don’t work in the way we do.”

However County Councillor Leigh Redman was concerned. He said: “The further delay in announcing the final investment decision for Hinkley C is once again causing further concern in the communities in and around Bridgwater. It makes recent comments about a northern bypass look even more irrelevant, with political leaders saying that the bypass should have been actioned, but pointing fingers of blame for it not happening towards the government and EDF.”

He was critical of the failure to build the bypass which would have now been completed if they given it the green light years ago.

He continued: “The uncertainty around FID is making the community in and around Bridgwater worried, so much money has been invested that should the biggest national infrastructure development this country has ever seen not go ahead then Bridgwater could be plunged into a chasm that would take many years to get out of.”

For the business community Steve Leahy of Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce cautioned patience. He said: “We sincerely hope that the FID does get announced in second / third week of February now as commerce is excited but nervous locally. I think everybody now just wants this announcement to finally happen.”

The area’s Green MEP Molly Scott Cato was more scathing. She said: “The whispers in the boardroom have spilled out and created panic. EDF directors and employees knows that the deal on Hinkley simply does not stack up and the company sooner or later faces bankruptcy if they proceed with nuclear new build at Hinkley. Given that EDF is 85% owned by the French government this has now become a political tussle rather than a commercial decision. Either Energy Secretary Amber Rudd faces the collapse of UK energy policy or the French government faces the bankruptcy of its state energy generator.”

Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “By our reckoning this is the ninth time EDF has said a final investment decision is imminent, and then nothing has happened. With all the problems that EDF has – the need to spend €55bn upgrading old French reactors; find €1.4bn to buy Areva and increasing waste disposal costs, (8) I really can’t see how the situation will be any different by 16th February”.

“Problems with the construction of other EPRs at Flamanville in France, (9) Olkiluoto in Finland and Taishan in China continue to mount up. It is now looking increasingly likely that Hinkley Point C is dead in the water.”

Despite the doubters there’s still confidence in Hinkley C from Sedgemoor District Council. The leader Cllr Duncan McGinty said: “With a project of this size, the largest engineering project in Europe, one would expect delays along the road to completion. Sedgemoor remains optimistic that the final investment decision to proceed will come soon. We are seeing increased activity on the ground, we are in contact with Tier 1 contractors and we are gearing ourselves up to play our part in delivering this project to achieve the maximum benefit for the local community and economy.”

And James Heappey MP for Wells and Burnham said: “News that EDF have kicked the Hinkley can down the road again is unwelcome and is understandably causing concern for local businesses and residents. I understand that EDF are now to make the Final Investment Decision in mid-February to coincide with the publication of their annual results.

“Ministers remain confident that all is as it should be and EDF, whilst tight lipped are not giving me any cause for concern either. However if the FID is further delayed beyond the publication of EDF’s results, I think we’d be right to start worrying that things are going awry.

“Clearly EDF is under significant financial pressure caused by the collapse in the wholesale price of electricity, their market value has fallen steeply leading to them dropping out of the CAC-40, the French unions are agitating over potential job losses in France and the French Government – who have a big say in what EDF does - will be sensitive to that sort of thing with Presidential elections just over a year away.

“That said, it is reported that EDF have already sunk £1 billion into the Hinkley site and that is sort of investment that you do not walk away from. I remain, therefore, confident that all is moving forward but if the FID is not announced by the time Parliament returns from recess on 22nd February, I will be seeking to ask some urgent questions of EDF and the Government.”

Do you think Hinkley C will go ahead or is the project about to collapse? Your views to harry.mottram@nqsw.co.uk