New setbacks for the EPR, the flagship of French nuclear power: the commissioning of the first new generation reactor at the Hinkley Point C power plant in England has now been postponed by at least two years – or even four years –, i.e. at best in 2029, the manufacturer EDF announced on Tuesday January 23.

Located in Somerset in the southwest of England, the Hinkley Point C site, largely supported by the French group, is not in its first slip-ups. First planned for the end of 2025, the start-up of the first reactor had already been postponed to June 2027, with a predicted risk of delay of fifteen months. The delay will ultimately be twenty-four months, in the best case scenario. The French electrician indicates that he has increased the duration of electromechanical assembly work (cables and pipes) when this phase is just beginning. Scheduled to last 28 months, this stage will ultimately take 52, thus adding two years to the total duration of the project.

Depending on the scenarios, favorable or central – the most probable according to EDF – on the realization of this assembly plan, the reactor could thus start either in 2029 or in 2030. But “given the complexity of the project” EDF has also planned “ an unfavorable scenario” which “could lead to the start of electricity production from Unit 1 in 2031,” he said in a press release.

Attract other partners

Longer therefore more expensive: the project’s cost is now “estimated in a range between 31 and 34 billion pounds in 2015 value”, announced the energy company, specifying that the costs in 2023 value are currently being estimated. This represents an additional cost of 6 to 8 billion pounds (7 to 9.3 billion euros) compared to the last revision which dates back to 2022. EDF then reassessed the project at 25-26 billion in 2015 pounds, compared to 18 billion estimated at the start of the project in 2016.

This new delay comes at a time when EDF announces its intention to build “1 to 1.5” reactors per year in the next decade. It also happens that the manufacturer has still not delivered Flamanville 3, its very first EPR, to France, which is twelve years late and has quadrupled the bill. It must be connected by mid-2024.

“The EDF teams have the confidence of the French government both for this British project and for the numerous power plants which will soon be built in France,” reacted to Agence France-Presse the Ministry of the Economy which also the charge of energy.

With inflation, Hinkley Point’s costs could rise further, and EDF could have to bear them alone, due to lack of participation by its Chinese partner CGN in additional costs. EDF said it hoped to “attract other partners for this project”, a process which “will take time”, but which has “no implication either on the timetable or on the cost”.

Lack of specialized labor

Today, the electrician is pleased to have completed 60% of the construction work on the buildings, a phase which reached a major milestone in December with the spectacular installation of the steel dome on the reactor building.

According to him, this new postponement of the schedule is solely linked to the reassessment of the duration of the electromechanical assembly work, “compared to the duration (…) estimated at the time of the investment decision” in 2016, a duration which does not had “never been seen again” for this phase.

Asked about the lack of specialized labor at a time when European countries want to relaunch nuclear power, the company indicates that it has “made the assumption of being able to find the qualifications” required. “But if we can’t find enough people quickly enough, this could cause a few additional small delays,” admitted EDF.

Started in 2017, the construction of the two 3.2 gigawatt reactors, capable of powering six million homes, is now involving 11,000 people. As a result of the new deadlines for Unit 1, the construction of the second unit, which was scheduled to start in June 2028, should also experience a one-year delay.