Theresa May does well to look at the fine print on Hinkley C. Thousands of pages, apparently, some of it secret UK -France agreements. One known clause of concern will be the termination date for the whole project: if it is not up and running by 2032 that's it. Big white elephant in Somerset.

The other fine print isn't there, if experts - and common sense - are right: the UK has no compensation clauses, while the Chinese have cost and completion date penalty clauses. Instead we've had to pay for the insurance for everyone else - hence Mr Osborne's £2bn.

Mrs May has plenty of time too, more than likely  as much as 3 years, not "early Autumn". Even with the "final investment decision" just made in Paris, EDF had already announced a start up date three years further on, sometime in 2019. That gives only 13 years to be up and running.....EDF have not yet achieved that anywhere.

In any case, there is a whole lot still to happen in these three years. Money is the heart of the matter. Anyone familiar with EDF finances knows that this year's annual report for the UK operations - due April/May next year - and covering Sizewell B - will be interesting: is even this station now running profitably with low overall energy prices ? EDF may have got 3bn euros from the French government, but they still need to sell off world assets worth twice that to provide the cash to build at Hinkley.

And remember, the Finnish Government are stil in court over their unfinished EPR, seeking compensation for delays.

Then there are major Hinkley design changes to reduce costs. The build cost has recently been reduced from £24 bn (which justified the high strike price) to £16bn plus a bit for inflation, now £18bn. Design changes are likely to reduce safety devices etc. This will all take time too.

Has Brexit changed anything:? Yes, it allows the UK government to directy subsidize all nuclear plants,not just inkley as a special case. The other two nuclear companies on Anglesey  and at Sellafieldhave said they need outside investors and will want their "fair share" of the subsidy price. Maybe even Mrs May can't afford that. Certainly as taxpayers we can't - and shouldn't - either.

And here ? Suffolk businessmen and politicians boasting about £100 million a year etc from Sizewell C (&D) need to get real: their nuclear pipe dreams are blighting Suffolk, not developing it. Whatever happened to cost-benefit analysis? New Sizewell is not community cost free. EDF locally said three years ago they didn't have money for new roads and "mitigations" and compensation. Surely that's even more true today than then. What a sorry mess.

Over to you Mrs May. Take as much time as you need !

Regan Scott

Category: Local Letters