PIECES of the complex Hinkley C jigsaw are falling into place, following a deal for Chinese investment in the multi-billion pound scheme.

French energy giant EDF have signed an investment agreement with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) to build the new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

EDF's share in Hinkley Point C will be 66.5 per cent and CGN's will be 33 per cent in the £18bn project.

EDF said the signing paved the way for Hinkley to go ahead and "set the steps" for a final investment decision - which EDF say will be made in a few weeks.

The news has been welcomed by officials in Somerset, who have spoken of the benefits the investment will bring for the area.

Colin Barrell, president of Taunton Chamber of Commerce: “As long as what we’ve heard means they can start making progress, it will be a huge relief for a lot of companies that have committed a lot of time, resources and energy for plans that might happen in the future.

“It’s good news for the future economy of Somerset and the surrounding area.

“We’d hope this is going to bring jobs into the community in Taunton and bring a bit more wealth into the community as Somerset is a low wage economy.”

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow added: “This is a critical moment for the area and indeed nationally and I welcome the signing ceremony that effectively forms the agreement for this vital energy scheme which illustrates the Government’s clear commitment to this key project.

“Crucially 25,000 jobs will be directly linked to the project with 5,000 of those being in Somerset with a consequent knock on affect for many businesses too, together with associated education programmes running across some of our educational establishments in conjunction. So it's good news all round.”

The station will create 25,000 employment opportunities and will support 900 direct jobs during its 60-year lifetime.

The project also aims to create 1,000 apprenticeships alongside £14 million of investment in education and training.

EDF chairman Jean-Bernard Levy said: "Today marks a big step forward for EDF's 30 year partnership with our Chinese partner CGN.

"Our ambitious nuclear projects are strongly supported by the governments of the UK, China and France and they will bring benefits to all three countries.

"I am confident that our experience and ability mean we will successfully deliver Hinkley Point C and subsequent projects.

"We are planning for a final investment decision within weeks so that we can move forward with construction."

Cllr John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane Council, said the development of Hinkley Point C was vitally important to Somerset’s economy.

He added: “The opportunities offered to our local businesses in Taunton Deane are considerable – as a council we continue to support the supply chain initiative and would strongly encourage businesses to get involved.

“Hinkley Point C will bring us significant economic prospects and we continue to work with our partners to maximise those opportunities."

But not all were pleased, South-West MEP Molly Scott Cato said: “This is nothing short of a national disgrace. Drugged up on Chinese finance, Cameron is taking risky decisions and leading the country up a dangerous dark alley.

"People will continue to die of the cold and live in fuel poverty as a result. Hinkley still has a number of hurdles to jump, despite this deal. We will continue to oppose this white elephant every step of the way."

More reaction: 

Councillor Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council, said: “We welcome the announcement which represents significant progress for Hinkley Point C which will be the UK's largest engineering and construction project in modern times.

"Sedgemoor District Council, together with partners, will continue working towards maximising local benefits but being mindful of the mitigating measures that will be required.

"The two local councils of Sedgemoor and West Somerset recognise the responsibility of hosting the resurgence of the UK's nuclear industry and will continue work with both the Government and EDF Energy to ensure that the benefits to their communities are long-lasting."

Interested businesses wishing to find out more or register on the supply chain portal should visit: www.hinkleysupplychain.co.uk

Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, David Hall, has welcomed today’s announcement from EDF Energy, as a clear commitment to taking the Hinkley Point C project forward.

EDF Energy and its Chinese partner China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) are today due to sign a Strategic Investment Agreement which marks a critical moment for the site in Somerset. Today’s announcement as part of this week’s landmark China State Visit demonstrates a clear intent from both parties to deliver the first new nuclear power station in the UK for a generation.

Cllr Hall, who is also Cabinet member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, was delighted by today’s announcement.

“We are massively encouraged by what we see today,” he said. “It's a clear commitment from both parties to move this £18bn, once in a generation project forward.

“We have worked closely with Government, educational and private businesses locally, regionally and nationally to get to this point and we are looking forward to the lasting legacy the development is set to bring.

“The development presents a massive opportunity for Somerset and the South West region.  Hinkley Point C is expected to provide 25,000 jobs during construction 900 jobs in its planned 60 year operating life with at least 5,000 people from Somerset expected to work directly on the project – an immeasurable benefit for the local economy.

He added: “Hinkley Point C looks set to kick start the national nuclear renaissance and will be the catalyst for economic growth in Somerset and the wider South West region.”

The confirmation of Chinese investment for the proposed Hinkley Point C development has been welcomed by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, describing it as another positive step towards kick-starting the economic benefits that the project will provide.

Chris Langdon, who leads the Chamber’s Hinkley Supply Chain Team, said, “This latest announcement is another very positive step towards a Final Investment Decision for Hinkley Point C. Once we reach that point, the project will begin to generate a significant boost for the local and regional economy, creating a wealth of jobs, investment and other opportunities.

“Despite a short-term lull in activity on-site, the supply chain work has been ongoing behind the scenes with EDF Energy, Tier 1 contractors and suppliers to map and match capabilities with work package requirements.

“The Somerset Chamber and its Hinkley Supply Chain Team will continue to engage with the main contractor requirements so that valuable supply chain connections with Somerset and South West businesses can be made. Having worked in collaboration with EDF Energy and the regional supply chain over the last two years, we were delighted when five local supplier alliances were announced by EDF Energy as the preferred bidders for contracts worth over £225million. We can only promote the Somerset and South West businesses we know about, so for any businesses not yet registered who want to get involved in the project, we would strongly recommend they register on the Hinkley supply chain as soon as possible.”

Hinkley Point C is expected to boost the South West regional economy by hundreds of millions of pounds during the construction period, boosting business capability and productivity, improving skills levels in the workforce, and attracting high quality firms to the region.

The Somerset Chamber of Commerce manages the Hinkley supply chain portal and is the first point of contact for Somerset and South West businesses wishing to engage in the construction of the proposed nuclear new build project. Almost 3,000 businesses have registered their interest to date and any business wishing to find out more should visit www.hinkleysupplychain.co.uk