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France 'committed' to Hinkley Point

BBC News BBC News 17/04/2016

The French government is "completely committed" to constructing the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the French economy minister has told the BBC.

Emmanuel Macron told the Andrew Marr Show the £18bn project in Somerset was "very important" for France and EDF, which is 85% owned by the French state.

Mr Macron said work still needed to be finalised but he hoped something would be signed with UK officials this week.

Greenpeace said alternatives to Hinkley Point were "increasingly attractive".

EDF has yet to outline how it will fund the project.

In October last year, it agreed a deal under which China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) would pay a third of the cost of the project, in exchange for a 33.5% stake.

But EDF has been struggling to find the cash for its remaining 66.5% stake and the cost of the Hinkley Point project now exceeds EDF's market value.

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The company's financial director resigned over the cost in March and last week the French Energy Minister Ségolène Royale said it should be delayed.

But Mr Macron told the BBC: "We back Hinkley Point project, it's very important for France, it's very important for the nuclear sector and EDF.

"Now we have to finalise the work, and especially the technical and industrial work, very closely with EDF, with the British government, to be in a situation to sign in the coming week or more."

Asked whether he thought the deal would go ahead, Mr Macron added: "That's my view, and that's our perspective, because I think it's very important for our commitment to nuclear energy."

John Sauven, director of environmental pressure group Greenpeace, said: "The French economy minister Emmanuel Macron says one thing to a UK audience and another to the French.

"He has made it abundantly clear in French that no decision has been made.

"The reasons are clear: the costs are rising, the problems are mounting, and the opposition in France is growing.

"The alternatives are looking increasingly attractive no matter which language you speak."

UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said: "Hinkley Point will power nearly six million homes, boosting our long-term energy security and create over 25,000 jobs, meaning financial security for working people and their families."

The Andrew Marr Show, which includes the full interview with Mr Macron, is available on BBC iPlayer .

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