THE potential lifetime cost of Hinkley C could be as high as £37 billion according to an assessment published by the UK government.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said the figure was provisional and would not affect bill payers.

French energy giant EDF said the £37bn figure should be disregarded. “Hinkley Point C will generate reliable low-carbon electricity in the future, so a cost estimate based on last year’s depressed wholesale price is not relevant," an EDF spokesman said.

"HPC’s electricity will be competitive with other low-carbon energy options and consumers won’t pay a penny until the plant begins operating.”

Hinkley C has been one of the government's flagship energy projects but has faced scrutiny amid delays and rising costs.

A Final Investment Decision is due later this year when the project will finally get the green light, however French Unions on the EDF board have raised concerns about the financial viability of the project.

EDF chairman Jean Bernard-Levy has said that Britain's decision to leave the European Union will not effect negotiations over the plans for the new nuclear power station in Somerset.

Last week EDF reiterated its support for the delayed new nuclear power station following a meeting of the firm's Central Committee.

The company released a statement which said: "EDF relies on sensitivity studies already communicated to staff representatives and considers this vote does not change the fundamentals of the project, nor the desire of players to engage in it."

However MEP for the South West and outspoken Hinkley C critic Molly Scott-Cato said a Plan B needs to be put in place in case the project does not go ahead.

"The Hinkley charade continues and is in as much disarray as ever following the Brexit vote. Unions want out and EDF bosses want in.

"Following the vote to leave the EU we have entered an era of Plan B’s, so let’s add a Plan B for our energy supply to the list.

“For months I have been calling for a plan based on the region’s huge renewable energy resources, which has the potential to provide more than 100 per cent of the region’s energy needs and create thousands of new jobs.

"What is needed is political backing for a genuine energy transition away from dirty fossil fuels and dangerous and costly nuclear towards community owned renewables."