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USA issues stark warning against UK partnering with China on nuclear power stations

US warns Britain against Chinese alliances on nuclear plants, Security official claims evidence of civilian nuclear technology being put to military use,, David Sheppard in London , 25 Oct 18

The US has issued a stark warning to the UK about partnering with China’s largest state-backed nuclear company on a host of new power plants, saying it has evidence that it is engaged in taking civilian nuclear technology and transferring it to military uses. Christopher Ashley Ford, the US assistant secretary for international security and non-proliferation, said that China General Nuclear (CGN), which is a partner on the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear project, among others, was at the forefront of Chinese efforts to militarise civilian nuclear technology.

“It’s quite clear now that essentially the entirety of the Chinese nuclear industry is lashed up with military-civil fusion,” Mr Ford said in a briefing with the Financial Times. “There is a growing pattern of information of which we have become aware over time related to technological theft issues.” Mr Ford said the US had shared evidence, both “open source” and from intelligence gathering, with the UK, showing CGN was involved in the transfer of technology that could be used for a range of military applications. That could include powering China’s new breed of nuclear powered submarines, aircraft carriers and “floating nuclear reactors for the ongoing militarisation of the South China Sea”, Mr Ford

“If CGN is engaged in helping the Chinese navy . . . with missiles that could presumably be pointed at western capitals, including London . . . It’s worth thinking about whether that’s a particularly good idea,” Mr Ford said. The bluntly delivered warning comes as UK prime minister Theresa May has tried to increase scrutiny of Chinese investment in key UK infrastructure compared to her predecessor David Cameron, including over involvement in nuclear power plants.

But the US intervention, given their status as the UK’s key military ally, is likely to increase pressure on Downing Street. The Trump administration is locked in a trade war with China, with tensions ramping up over tariffs and the balance of payments between the two countries. But the US this month also updated its own policies on civilian nuclear co-operation with China to say that there would be a “presumption of denial” for any US company seeking to transfer technology to CGN or its subsidiaries. …..

A contract between China and Westinghouse Electric Company, the US nuclear engineering group sold by Toshiba to Canadian asset manager Brookfield last year, is not, however, broadly affected by the US policy shift, although future deals could be. The second Westinghouse plant in China started up on Wednesday, 11 years after the deal to build four AP1000 reactors was first signed. …..

Last month, CGN told the Financial Times that political sensitivities could prompt it to give up the chance to operate a new atomic power plant at Bradwell in Essex, as the group also outlined ambitious plans for an industrial partnership with Britain. …..

CGN has invested more than £2bn in its British nuclear projects in the past two years, and has committed to spend £9.5bn in this area in total.

October 25, 2018 - Posted by | China, politics international, UK, USA

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