Britain's Hinkley nuclear project not affected by Brexit - minister

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom speaks during the "The ITV Referendum Debate" at the London Television Centre in Britain, June 9, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Frost/ITV/REX/Shutterstock via Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - A project to build two new nuclear reactors at EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point site in Britain will not be influenced by the outcome of the country’s vote last week to leave the European Union, energy minister Andrea Leadsom told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“I don’t believe the Austrian challenge to Hinkley has any merit ... and I do not believe (the project) will be influenced by the results of the referendum,” Leadsom told an energy and climate change committee hearing.

Austria launched legal action against the European Commission last year over its backing of British plans to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, saying it went against the EU’s aim to support renewable energy.

A final investment decision on Hinkley Point has been delayed as France’s EDF tries to secure partners and financing. Concerns have been raised that Britain’s decision to leave the EU could put the project even further behind.

Leadsom, who was in favour of leaving the EU, also said she did not believe anything would change for British energy policy following last week’s vote and that nothing should change for interconnectors with the EU, which are run by companies that have commercial agreements.

The minister said she could not give details about the timings of the second and third rounds of auctions for government-supported renewable energy projects, known as contracts-for-difference (CfD).

“On the timings of the second and third auctions, it depends on progress, the pipeline (of projects) and so on, and so it is not possible to say right now,” Leadsom said.

Reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton