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Ex-EDF finance chief wanted three-year delay on Hinkley Point decision

EDF's former chief financial officer, Thomas Piquemal.

EDF's former chief financial officer wanted to delay a final investment decision on building the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear plant by at least three years, he told French MPs this week. 

Thomas Piquemal resigned his post in March, but until he addressed a French parliamentary committee hearing on 4 May, he had not spoken publicly about his reasons for leaving. 

Speaking to French MPs, Piquemal said: “In January 2015, I proposed to negotiate a three-year delay with our client because we reasoned that it would weigh too heavily on EDF's balance sheet." He said that he had resigned in desperation when it was clear that despite his efforts, he would not be able to delay the project. 

Piquemal  explained that he could not sign off on a decision that might put EDF in the same situation as Areva, which has agreed to sell its reactor business to EDF, which was virtually bankrupt after years of losses wiped out its value was rescued by the state.

He said that it was untrue that he had resigned for personal reasons and that if he had continued at EDF without speaking out about the risk involved with Hinkley Point it would have been a “professional mistake".  "Who would bet 60 to 70 percent of his equity on a technology that has not yet proven that it can work and which takes 10 years to build," Piquemal said. 

Four Areva-designed EPR reactors of the same kind that EDF wants to build in Britain are currently under construction in France, Finland and China and are years behind schedule and massively over budget. 

While claiming that the EPR reactors involved a "major construction risk", Piquemal declined to comment on technical issues.