Hinkley Point

The £18 billion plans to build the first nuclear power plant in the UK in two decades look set to go ahead after EDF secured a bailout from the French government.

Earlier this month, EDF's finance director quit over concerns that proceeding with the Hinkly Point project would compromise the cash-strapped energy firm.

But the French economics minister, Emmanuel Macron, said it would be a mistake for EDF - which is 85% owned by the government - not to build the power plant in Somerset.

Mr Macron said: “If there is a need to recapitalise (EDF), we will.

“If there needs to be a further waiver of dividends (from EDF to government), we will.”

He added: “If you believe in nuclear, you cannot say that you will not participate in the biggest nuclear project in the world. Not doing Hinkley Point would be a mistake.”

It comes after EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy last week promised staff that the company would not go ahead with the project unless it received more financial support from the French government.

The government bailout comes as calls for EDF and the French government to scrap Hinkley Point altogether, with suggestions that it will lead to job losses in France.

The CGT union, which has seats on the EDF board, said: “It will jeopardise the company. We are not saying don’t do it but it must be delayed. It’s too premature."

Hinkly Point has received widespread criticism in the UK due to the subsidy deal between the government and EDF. The French energy giant has been promised a subsidy double the current cost of wholesale electricity.