EDF says "in no hurry" for UK nuclear projects

PARIS Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:01pm BST

Henri Proglio, chief executive of French state-owned utility EDF, speaks during the company's 2012 annual result presentation in Paris February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Henri Proglio, chief executive of French state-owned utility EDF, speaks during the company's 2012 annual result presentation in Paris February 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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PARIS (Reuters) - EDF chief executive officer Henri Proglio said on Thursday talks are continuing between the French utility and the British government about its nuclear projects in Britain but added that he was "in no hurry" to sign an agreement.

EDF and the British government are in negotiation about the price at which the UK would buy electricity from nuclear plants to be built by EDF.

"I am not in a hurry. We obtained an extension of the life span of existing plants ... As far as I am concerned, negotiations can also fail," Proglio told reporters on the sidelines of a debate about France's energy policy.

Last month, EDF won planning approval to build Britain's first new nuclear power station in almost 20 years but warned the project would only move forward if both parties could agree a guaranteed minimum "strike" price for the power produced.

EDF wants at least 100 pounds per megawatt-hour (MWh) while the government would prefer a price around 80 pounds, according to industry sources and analysts.

Chancellor George Osborne told a panel of MPs last month that both sides aimed to reach a deal.

EDF wants to build two reactors at an estimated cost of 14 billion pounds, but wants assurances that it can recoup its investment with a government guarantee to support energy prices.

Stretched by high debt and the need to upgrade its ageing nuclear fleet in France, the French utility can ill afford a miscalculation in a major foreign investment.

In February British utility Centrica pulled out of its partnership with EDF to build new nuclear power stations in Britain.

The withdrawal will force EDF to find a new partner, possibly Chinese, but Proglio has repeatedly said that without a favourable strike price no other companies would be interested in the project.

While Germany and others have turned away from nuclear energy in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011, Britain remains intent on building new atomic capacity and plans to build up to 16 gigawatts of new nuclear power capacity.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet; writing by Geert De Clercq; editing by James Jukwey)

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