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French unions walk out of nuclear sector meeting with minister

PARIS, July 18 (Reuters) - Several French trade unions walked out of a meeting with the economy minister on the nuclear sector on Monday, saying they did not want their participation used as a cover to sanction decisions such as on EDF’s Hinkley Point project in Britain.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron was expected to meet the energy branch of the trade unions to discuss the overhaul of the French nuclear sector which has been in turmoil since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The unions, worried that heavily indebted state-controlled utility EDF is taking on too much, are against the company pushing ahead with an 18 billion pound ($23.4 billion) plan to build a nuclear reactor complex at Hinkley Point in southern England and have asked for it to be delayed.

Macron has backed the project and said he expects EDF to make a final investment decision in September.

Representatives of several unions, including the hardline CGT and FO, arrived at the meeting, read a brief statement and left.

“Nothing guarantees us that this meeting is not a facade to endorse a decision that we do not agree to. Among others, we reject any forceful decision on Hinkley Point,” the CGT, FO, CGC and UNSA unions said in a joint statement.

The unions said that although the meeting was about the French nuclear sector that comprises several players such as AREVA and CEA, only EDF was present at the talks.

The moderate CFDT union took part in the meeting.

“The minister regrets that the dialogue on all subjects could not take place even though several meetings have been held with the unions,” a senior official at the Economy Ministry told reporters, adding that the ministry will pursue bilateral meetings with unions that wish it. ($1 = 0.7544 pounds) (Reporting by Bate Felix and Benjamin Mallet; editing by Adrian Croft)

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