PARIS — French utility EDF’s Finance Director Thomas Piquemal has resigned over the company’s plan to build two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point, Britain, a source familiar with the situation said Sunday.
The source confirmed a report which said Piquemal had resigned because pushing ahead now with the €23.3 billion project would jeopardize the company’s financial situation.
A two other sources familiar with the situation said EDF’s board had not yet formally been informed of Piquemal’s resignation.
The board is set to meet on Tuesday, one source said. The EDF official Twitter account released this statement Monday:
— EDF Energy Comms (@edfenergycomms) March 7, 2016
Sources told reporters last month that EDF’s unions — which have six seats on the company’s board — would vote against the project as it stands right now and want EDF to delay the UK project until it has developed a new and simplified version of the Areva-designed European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) it plans to build in Hinkley Point.
French media have reported that top EDF officials have also expressed reservations about the feasibility of the project.
Two EPRs under construction in France and Finland are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget and two more under construction in China have also suffered long delays.
EDF – which is 85 percent state-owned — has borrowed billions of euros just to pay dividends to its state shareholder in recent years and its earnings are under pressure from record low wholesale electricity prices.
It needs to spend some €55 billion to upgrade its aging French nuclear plants, €5 billion in a smart meter rollout and several billion euros to take over and restructure the reactor unit of fellow state-owned Areva.
EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy said last month he expected the company would take a final investment decision on the British Hinkley Point nuclear plant “this year,” after having said several times in recent months that the decision would be taken “soon.”
Levy also said he expected EDF would pour its first concrete for Hinkley Point in 2019 and that any potential exit of Britain from the European Union would not change the plan.
The project was first announced in October 2013 and EDF announced a partnership for it with Chinese utility CGN in October 2015, but an investment decision has been delayed several times.
BY GEERT DE CLERCQ