The chief financial officer of French energy giant EDF, Thomas Piquemal, has resigned over a disagreement about an ambitious project to build Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in decades, a source close to the matter told AFP on Sunday.
“The chief financial officer presented his resignation last week to Jean-Bernard Levy (CEO) because of a disagreement over Hinkley Point,” the source said, confirming a Bloomberg report.
The dispute centred around “the short-term feasibility” of a plan to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, southwest England, the source told AFP.
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.
The firm agreed in October to construct two European Pressurised 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”.
Opponents have criticised 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.