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EDF finance chief quits over British nuclear plant plan

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Hinkley Point. Photo: AFP
09:29 CET+01:00
French energy giant EDF confirmed on Monday that its finance chief had resigned, a day after a source said he stepped down over a disagreement about a project to build Britain's first new nuclear power plant in decades.

Shares in the energy company plunged shortly after the Paris stock exchange opened on Monday, shedding more than eight percent on overall lower trading. EDF said Thomas Piquemal would be replaced for now by Xavier Girre who is currently finance director for France.

A source close to the matter told AFP on Sunday that Piquemal had presented his resignation last week over "the short-term feasibility" of a plan to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point in southwest England.

According to the same source, Piquemal had not wanted to rush the project at a time when the company's union representatives are voicing increasing concern over the proposed plant's £18-billion ($25.8-billion, 23.6-million-euro) price tag. EDF declined to comment when contacted by AFP.


Thomas Piquemal. Photo: AFP

The firm agreed in October to construct two European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) at Hinkley Point, a third-generation nuclear reactor design, with the state-run China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) taking a one-third stake.

But since then EDF has been putting off announcing a final investment decision on whether to go ahead with the plan, prompting speculation that the project could be delayed.

EDF said in a statement on Thursday that it was making "every effort" to reach a final investment decisions "in  the near future".

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Opponents have criticized the gigantic Hinkley Point scheme on strategic, environmental and technical grounds. The British government says the plant is essential for meeting Britain's energy security, as most of the country's existing nuclear plants are due to close by 2023. It said last month that "good progress" was being made.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron earlier this week defended the Hinkley Point plan, calling it a "very good investment" for EDF. EDF - Electricite de France (EDF) - is 84.5-percent owned by the French state. It is a major player in the British energy market through a subsidiary.

The company announced in January that it planned to cut five percent of its staff over the next three years -  meaning that some 3,500 jobs will go - as it grapples to respond to increased competition and lower electricity prices.

The group said last month it was also slashing its dividend after unveiling sharply lower annual net profits of 1.19 billion euros, compared with 3.70 billion euros in 2014.

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