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Hinkley Point approval wrong decision for environment and taxpayers: SDLP's Margaret Ritchie

Board votes by 10 to 7 in favour of proceeding with the UK's first new power station in twenty years

The SDLP's Margaret Ritchie has criticised EDF’s decision to press ahead with building a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point

The French energy giant had been expected to make the final investment decision at a board meeting, clearing the way for the £18 billion project to go ahead.

Reports said the board voted by 10-7 in favour. EDF in the UK made no immediate comment.

The South Down MP said: "I have opposed the Government’s plans with Hinkley Point from the beginning. By carrying on with plans for the first new nuclear project in 20 years, it is clear that, even with new Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Conservative Government still cares more about seeking prestige from impractical mega-infrastructure projects than they do about the environment or the tax payers who will have to pay higher energy costs for decades.

"EDF is already facing profound difficulties in managing their existing nuclear projects, particularly at Hinkley Point’s forerunner, Flamanville. I believe the EDF board has made a significant mistake in giving final approval for the construction of Hinkley Point C and I am concerned we will see millions more spent on a project that will ultimately be unworkable.

"Rather than spending good money after bad on a project unlikely to deliver the benefits promised, we should be investing in diverse sustainable renewable energy that decentralises electricity generation, cuts bills for households and protects our environment from climate change."

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Hinkley Point C nuclear power station: 'most expensive object on earth' to be constructed just 170 miles off the coast of Ireland 

John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director, also criticised the deal. He said: "This deal was more riven with dissension in the EDF board than anyone expected. It's unprecedented division and far closer than predicted.

"Countless experts have warned that for British families this power station will be terrible value for money. This is a bitter pill to swallow for hard up people who have been told that the Government is trying to keep bills down while dealing with energy security and lowering carbon emissions.

"Today's decision doesn't prove the UK is open for business post Brexit - it just shows the Hinkley deal became too big to fail in the eyes of British and French politicians."

A director opposed to the construction of Hinkley Point C resigned before the board met.

Gerard Magnin said in his resignation letter that Hinkley Point was "very risky".

He did not attend the board meeting, leaving 17 directors to make the crucial decision.

Barry Gardiner, shadow energy secretary, said: "Labour is clear that there is a role for new nuclear as part of our future low carbon infrastructure; but not at any price.

"The Government's failure to get a grip of the public interest here shows a startling level of incompetence."

Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer, said: "This decision sends a clear post-Brexit signal to the world that UK PLC is open for business and important, high-profile infrastructure projects like Hinkley Point mean Britain is serious about remaining a key player for decades to come.

"This is important, not just for Somerset and the surrounding area, but for the whole country and other big infrastructure projects in the pipeline."

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary for energy, added: "The announcement that building work can start immediately at Hinkley Point C is great news for the economy and a first stop in plugging the UK energy needs gap that exists due to the Government's failure to have a proper, balanced energy policy."

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: "The Tories' ideological fixation with nuclear has blinded them to the eye-watering cost of this project and the significant risk that it will never be completed.

"The same level of investment could make the UK super efficient and deliver far more electricity from a range of renewables.

"Hinkley doesn't make sense on economic or environmental grounds.

"EDF's other two reactor projects are years behind schedule and many times over budget, there is little evidence that the project at Hinkley will be any more successful."

Stephen Radley, director of policy at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), said: "At a time of increasing uncertainty, this is great news for construction.

"It should mean 25,000 new jobs, hundreds of apprentices and a boost to the economy across the South West.

"CITB will continue to work closely with EDF Energy and others to help develop the skilled workforce Hinkley Point C will need."

Nick Baveystock, Institution of Civil Engineers director general, said: "Nuclear has an important role to play in achieving the UK's goal for a secure, low carbon economy.

"The Hinkley decision is a major step forward, and we hope it will be the first of a fleet of new nuclear power stations.

"The decision comes at a critical time, demonstrating confidence in the infrastructure sector and in the UK as a place to invest."

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: "Business has been calling on the Government to push ahead with three big infrastructure projects which will help secure the sustainable future of the British economy - HS2, Hinkley and Heathrow.

"Now that HS2 and Hinkley Point have been confirmed, the Government can unleash a further £16bn of private investment by approving Heathrow expansion and securing Britain's position as a confident, outward-looking, leading trading nation post Brexit."

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said: "We call on the Government to scrap the Hinkley Point C nuclear deal.

"The new power plant will saddle future generations with an astronomical environmental and economic debt."

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: "The final green light for Hinkley Point is welcome news as now, more than ever, action is needed on key infrastructure projects which attract investment to the United Kingdom.

"The project represents a significant milestone in the United Kingdom's energy future. It will play a key role in further securing and decarbonising our energy supply, putting us on the right path to a sustainable energy mix.

"We hope it will also help kick-start a new nuclear build programme, creating jobs for tens of thousands of people - not just in the local community, but up and down the whole country."

Jimmy Aldridge of the IPPR think-tank said: "The Government has shown great determination in getting the Hinkley Point C deal approved.

"But the cost and delays cannot be repeated for future nuclear power stations.

"The Government should review the financing model: IPPR's analysis shows that there are cheaper and more efficient options, including direct public investment."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This is good news. EDF's announcement means thousands of new jobs and a much-needed economic boost to the region.

"This is exactly the kind of major investment we need following the vote to leave the EU. We face serious economic challenges, so projects which bring investment, certainty, and good-quality employment are crucial.

"But this project alone won't be enough. New nuclear capacity should go hand in hand with support for more green tech - like renewables, clean coal and energy efficiency. This can deliver great new jobs - particularly in towns that have lost their heavy industries."

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