EDF union board members file challenge to annul Hinkley Point vote

August 31, 2016 6:28 AM EDT

Hinkley Point A and B nuclear power stations are seen behind the site where EDF Energy's Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will be constructed in Bridgwater, southwest England October 24, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

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PARIS (Reuters) - Five staff representatives on the board of EDF have filed a legal complaint seeking to annul the utility's decision to go ahead with its Hinkley Point nuclear project in Britain, EDF unions said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

On July 28, EDF's board voted 10 to seven to proceed with the 18 billion pound ($24 billion) project to build two nuclear reactors. All six staff representatives and one other board member voted against, while one board member resigned in protest against EDF's strategy.

The unions argue that EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy and representatives of the French state should have informed the board that they knew the British government wanted to take more time to review the contract.

Hours after EDF's board approved the project, the UK government postponed its decision until early autumn. Days later, in an email to top EDF executives, Levy admitted that the night before the board meeting he had been told new British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a bit more time.

The nuclear reactors carry huge risks for both France and Britain. EDF will assume the up-front costs, which unions say could jeopardize the firm's survival, while Britain has committed to pay a price twice current market levels for the power generated by the plant.

"Some board members discovered they did not benefit from the same level of information as the CEO and government representative," the CGT, CFE-CGC and FO unions said. The moderate CFDT union did not sign the statement.

The unions added there was no justification to push the board to vote on the project in a hurry.

EDF declined to comment on Wednesday.

Law firm Alain Levy, which represents the five union board members, said in a statement it had filed a complaint with the Paris commercial court, asking it to annul the vote because Levy had not shared essential information with all board members.

A first hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept 5.

The five union board members also raised conflict of interest issues because some of the EDF board members who voted in favor of Hinkley Point represent companies that are EDF customers and could benefit from the UK contract.

French firms Bouygues and Vallourec have denied that members of their boards who are also on the board of EDF had a conflict of interest in their Hinkley Point vote.

EDF is also being sued by its Works Council, which also wants to annul the vote because it argues it had not received the necessary documents from management to give non-binding preliminary advice to the company.

($1 = 0.7617 pounds)

(Reporting by Bate Felix and Geert De Clercq; additional reporting by Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Brian Love and Susan Thomas)

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