THE cost of building Hinkley Point C has soared by a massive £3billion and the completion of the project has been delayed by 18 months, mainly due to the pandemic.

Electricity will be generated from Unit 1 for the first time in June 2027 - presuming there is no new pandemic and no additional impact from the war in Ukraine.

But the project's managing director Stuart Crooks says the increased costs, which will take the overall bill to up to £26billion, will not be met by consumers and British taxpayers.

In a letter to staff and contractors, Mr Crooks said the number of workers on site was cut from more than 5,000 to around 1,500 due to Covid restrictions, making the operation "less efficient", with some work "slowed or stopped".

Civil construction lost more than 500,000 individual days of critical work, while the supply chain was hit and is still impacted and 180 suppliers were shut down, with 60 still operating with reduced productivity.

Mr Crooks added: "Stopping altogether would have had a devastating impact on the project and its suppliers.

"We found ways to continue during the pandemic whilst keeping workers and the community safe.

"Your resilience and patience kept us moving forward. Thank you. I know it was sometimes tough at work and at home – especially as many of you were also caring for children and loved ones."

Despite everything, Mr Crooks said "significant progress" has been made in some area, with work underway to install equipment and miles of pipes and cables and new training centres being set up.

He said: "Our simulator building is open and our future operators are already in training.

"Next year the heart of our plant, the reactor pressure vessel, will be delivered.

"Equipment is arriving now, certified and ready to be installed, including the world’s largest turbine.

"We have completed our tunnels under the Bristol Channel and this summer we will place the cooling heads in a spectacular piece of precision engineering."

Mr Crooks added: "The review acknowledges where lost time and budget opportunities cannot be recovered in the current challenging environment.

"It gives us a credible schedule that is optimised to deliver the power station as effectively as possible – with realistic interfaces between teams and achievable goals."

Hinkley Point C will take a total of 20 years to develop and build and is likely to operate for 80 years.