by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) May 17, 2016
President Francois Hollande renewed his support on Tuesday for the controversial nuclear project planned by France's energy giant EDF at Hinkley Point in Britain.
"I am in favour that this project goes ahead," Hollande told Europe 1 radio.
"It's very important to understand that we need a high-performance, highly secure nuclear industry in France, and that we cannot let others take over terrain, including on exports, that has been French up to now," he said.
A final decision on the plan to build two new-generation nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in southwest England was due this month, but was delayed after unions at EDF demanded a review into the cost.
A joint project between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corporation, it carries a projected price tag of PND 18 billion ($26 billion, 23 billion euros) that will make it one of the world's most expensive nuclear power plants.
Unions at EDF, which is 85 percent state-owned, fear it could bankrupt the company, which is already saddled with more than 37 billion euros in debt.
Last month, management agreed to consult the internal committee which has brought in outside experts to review the financial implications of the project.
Hollande said the review would be completed "in the coming weeks".
There have been dissenting voices over Hinkley Point within the French government.
On Friday, Environment Minister Segolene Royal, who is also mother to Hollande's children, told the Financial Times that she was worried about the "colossal sums" involved in the project and questioned whether it should go ahead.
Ratings agencies Standard and Poor's and Moody's both lowered their forecasts for EDF last week, saying efforts to streamline the company were insufficient.
Hollande restated his vow to restructure and boost financing at EDF and rival energy giant Areva, "because they are the future".
"The French nuclear industry has 200,000 employees. It represents our energy independence," Hollande told Europe 1.
"EDF and Areva are public companies on which we should rely. But at the same time, we must give them new support."
CGN, which is due to cover a third of the costs, said Monday that it would not go ahead with the project if EDF pulls out.
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