The new nuclear power station being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset will start operating a year later than planned and will cost an extra £3bn, it has been announced.
The French energy company EDF published the findings of a review into the cost and schedule of the power station taking account of the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The delay means the first reactor unit is now scheduled to start operating in June 2027, a year later than planned, with costs estimated between £25bn and £26bn. EDF said this would not affect the cost to British consumers or taxpayers.
A reduction in the number of workers allowed on the site in Somerset due to pandemic safety measures resulted in the loss of more than half a million days of critical work in 2020 and 2021, EDF said.
Stuart Crooks, the managing director of Hinkley Point C, said in a message on Thursday evening: “You will all have experienced the severe impact of Covid-19 on the project over the last two years. You will remember how we suddenly had to cut numbers on site from more than 5,000 to around 1,500.
“For many months after that, we remained far below our plan for site numbers as our ability to fully ramp up activity was thwarted by the need for measures to prevent infection.
“Keeping workers safe with social distancing in canteens, buses and at work meant we had no choice but to become less efficient. In civil construction alone, having fewer people than planned means we lost in excess of half a million individual days of critical work in 2020 and 2021.
“Our supply chain was also hit hard and is still impacted now. In April 2020, 180 suppliers were fully shut down, but even as late as February this year, more than 60 suppliers were operating with reduced productivity due to Covid.”
Crooks said that in January 2021, EDF estimated a six-month Covid impact, assuming an imminent return to normal conditions, but the second wave of Covid-19 stopped that happening.
“In total, the start date for Unit 1 has gone back 18 months since construction started in 2016. In such a complex project, it wouldn’t be credible to say we can measure exactly how much of this is due to Covid-19 impact, but it is clearly in excess of 12 months.
He said that other factors had affected the schedule and costs
“Running the site for longer and less efficiently during the pandemic also adds cost. We are facing the same issues as other major projects with UK-wide supply and labour shortages and inflation.”