LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The British government said on Thursday it was assessing developer EDF's progress in building the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant and reviewing costs, but played down a report that this was prompted by concerns over potential delays.
Britain announced a deal late last year with France's EDF to build Britain's first new nuclear plant in decades. The project in southwest England is expected to cost around 16 billion pounds ($25 billion) and start producing electricity in 2023.
The Times newspaper reported on Thursday that the government was carrying out a "secret review" of the project due to concerns over potential delays which it said had grown after EDF's announcement of a new one-year delay in the construction of the same type of reactor in France.
However Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change said the assessment was unrelated to EDF's announcement on Tuesday about the Areva-designed EPR reactor in Flamanville, France.
"We constantly monitor investment projects to make sure they're delivered on time and within budget," a spokeswoman said. "EDF Energy have opened their books to allow our expert external advisers to challenge and verify the projected costs of constructing, operating and decommissioning the power station, but this is nothing new," she said.
A spokesman for EDF said this was a normal process that the British government followed for all investment projects, and was not specific to Hinkley Point.
Liberum utility analyst Peter Atherton also said such reviews were normal practice.
"The government hasn't signed its final contract (with EDF) yet so it makes sense for them to be carrying out several final checks before this happens," he said.
The development of EPR reactors has been beset with delays. Construction on the first EPR in Olkiluoto, Finland started in 2005. It had originally been scheduled to go live in 2009, but that is now expected to happen in late 2018.
(1 US dollar = 0.6389 British pound)
Reporting By Susanna Twidale; Additional reporting by Geert De Clercq in Paris and Karolin Schaps in London; Editing by Pravin Char