British taxpayers could end up paying £22bn for Hinkley C according to a leaked minute from an EDF meeting.

The ‘poison pill’ described by The Guardian comes from documents shown to the newspaper by an undisclosed source - but thought to be from a French official privy to the EDF board meetings.

In it the tax payer would be left to pick up the pieces if the power plant was closed before 2060 with a bill of £22bn payable to the energy giant. The new power station is behind schedule with no final investment decision although it should be producing energy by 2025 say the Government. It is due to produce electricity for 35 years meaning that any safety glitch that caused it to close early would see the £22bn guarantee activated.

The ’secret’ liability clause if true would confirm the worst fears of critics of the project who include the Green Party’s SW MEP Molly Scott Cato and the Cannington based Stop Hinkley group. Bridgwater’s Labour group have become uneasy about the project as have the local Chambers of Commerce who have shared their frustration over the delays with the Mercury. Both local Conservative MPs, Ian Liddell Grainger and James Heappey believe the project will go ahead boosted by the recent joint communique from the British and French Government declaring confidence in the power station.

The Guardian’s Damian Carrington wrote: “The deal the UK government has agreed with EDF, set out in an unpublished ‘minute’, it commits the British public to pay subsidies of up to about £40bn in real terms and provides state guarantees on nuclear waste disposal and insurance, while allowing the plant to begin producing electricity as late as 2033.

“A shutdown that triggers the ‘poison pill’ compensation is not entirely within the control of the UK government but could also be forced by the EU or an international regulator such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the document.”

The French Trade Union CGT has poured scorn on the project. The union has board members at EDF and they fear the £18bn scheme could bankrupt the company and lead to job losses in France. Whether the ‘secret’ minute came via the union is not known but it all adds to a mounting crisis as decisions to go-ahead with the build are put off month after month.

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