Prime Minister Theresa May "raised objections" to the proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point during her time a minister in the coalition government, according to the former Liberal Democrat business secretary, Sir Vince Cable.

"Certainly, when we were in government, Theresa May was, I think, quite clear she was unhappy about the rather gung-ho approach to Chinese investment that we had and that George Osborne, in particular, was promoting," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

As he recalled, he said, "she raised objections to Hinkley at that time".

It had been thought that the decision by the board of French firm EDF to approve funding for the £18m (€21.3m, $23.8m) project on 28 July was the final hurdle towards it beginning. The French energy company will provide most of its financing.

Contracts were to be signed on 29 July, but in a move that took many by surprise, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said the government would consider the deal "carefully" before backing it, adding that a final decision would be made in the autumn.

While Sir Vince agreed that it was right to review the project, he said the way that it had been handled was "clumsy".

However, unions warned that jobs are at risk and Jason Millett, chief operating officer for major programmes and infrastructure at Mace, a major contractor at Hinkley Point, said the decision to delay had left people "bewildered".

"We are a little bit nervous," he said. "You have to remember in the business we do, projects do have ups and downs and there are hurdles. We thought the EDF board decision would be the last hurdle. This is a new hurdle that's been introduced."

However, EDF's chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said he understood the government wanting more time to consider the plans for the plan in a letter to workers in which he insisted the project was still "strong" despite the delay.

"The new prime minister has been in post for just 16 days. Her full Cabinet has been in post even fewer," he said. "We can understand their need to take a little time. We fully respect the prime minister's method."

Insisting that his message was one of confidence, he said: "The very good news is that we are ready. The board's decision means that when the government is ready to go ahead, we are ready too."

He added that he had met Greg Clark after the minister made the announcement.

"My message today is one of continuity and confidence," he said. "The EDF board's decision is a huge achievement and one we should be proud of. Our journey is a long one and there is a further stage. Our job now is to maintain the courage, patience and dedication that have served us so well."