Europe

Has the Hinkley pause hampered investor confidence?

When the government pressed pause on Hinkley Point C, the entire industry was left in the dark as to why. But as foreign investors take more of an interest, there’s still plenty of confidence left in the market. Mark Smulian reports

The catering was booked, the speeches prepared, and the cameras ready. And then suddenly everyone was dressed up with nowhere to go at the launch of the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor project. For reasons left unexplained, the government called an eleventh-hour “pause”.

Theories advanced for this surprise ranged from a new government simply wishing to satisfy itself about the project, through to lurid concerns about Chinese nuclear espionage, or a plot by the French and UK governments to extricate each other from Hinkley’s eye-watering cost.

As things turned out, the government’s main concern was to secure influence over who owns the UK’s nuclear infrastructure.

When business secretary Greg Clark eventually gave Hinkley the go-ahead in mid-September, it was with a series of conditions attached about requiring government approval for future changes of ownership in this and other new nuclear power stations.

But does this stop-start approach carry a message about investing in UK infrastructure generally or is a nuclear reactor so untypical that its fate has little bearing on more conventional projects or the UK’s decree of being “open for business”?

Commitment to nuclear

Hinkley will be the centrepiece of…

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