EDF ex-manager of Hinkley Point defends power plant

Britain's government gave the green light to the controversial Chinese-backed Hinkley Point nuclear power plant on September 15, 2016 (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

London (AFP) - The former manager of EDF's planned Hinkley Point nuclear power plant on Thursday defended the French energy giant's plans that remain mired in uncertainty.

This week's resignation of EDF finance chief Thomas Piquemal sparked heightened concerns over the future of the £18-billion (23.2-billion-euro, $25.5 billion) Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, southwest England.

Hinkley Point, which EDF will build in partnership with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), will be Britain's first nuclear power plant in decades and is to provide seven percent of its energy needs by 2025.

Chris Bakken, who left EDF's British subsidiary for a new role at US firm Entergy in early February, wrote to The Times newspaper after it said in a leader column that the departures indicated both men lacked "full faith" in the project.

EDF has yet to give its final investment decision to green-light the enormous project.

"Your leader suggests that I left EDF Energy because it I did not appear to have full faith in the Hinkley Point C project. Far from it," Bakken wrote in a letter published Thursday.

"The reason for my departure was that I was born and brought up in the US and decided to move back to the US so that my wife and I could return to our family."

The former manager argued that the project stood up to scrutiny, adding that it would safeguard thousands of jobs in Britain.

"The economics of the project have stood up to repeated scrutiny," Bakken wrote.

"EDF and its Chinese partner are shouldering the construction risks and consumers will not pay a penny until the plant generates its reliable low carbon electricity."

He added: "Abandoning this would not only deny the UK seven percent of potential power supply at a time when it will be most needed but also jeopardises jobs for the 25,000 people who will work on its construction."

EDF had agreed in October 2015 to construct two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs), a third-generation nuclear reactor design, at Hinkley Point.