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A financial necessity – UK’s nuclear industry to fall into China’s hands

Telegraph 24th Jan 2019, Britain’s nuclear industry is falling inexorably into Chinese hands. At
Hinkley Point in Somerset, after years of debate and delay concrete is now
finally being poured by EDF for the base of Britain’s first nuclear reactor
to be built since Sizewell B.

But plans to build a fleet of new reactors at
other sites where existing plants are due to be retired from service are
tumbling like nine-pins.

Will any more be built? It’s hard to say, but without giant dollops of Chinese cash it looks increasingly improbable.

Amid falling costs for renewable alternatives, Britain’s nuclear dreams are
foundering on the rocks of cold economic reality, just as they did under
Thatcher when a flood of North Sea gas arrived to reshape the nation’s
energy landscape.

EDF, which owns the UK’s existing reactor fleet, and its
Chinese partner CGN remain committed to developing three new nuclear
projects at Hinkley, Sizewell in Suffolk and another at Bradwell in Essex –
a Chinese-led scheme – quite how the £50 billion-odd cost of building them
will be met remains murky. With debts of over 31 billion euros (£27bn),
the French state-owned company is strapped for cash and looks increasingly
reliant on its Beijing-backed partner to get them built.

The dawning reality is that without Chinese money to prop up EDF the industry is a
busted flush. Amid mounting security fears, Britain will have to think hard
about the wisdom of handing over the keys to a large part of its nuclear
fleet to Beijing.

Meanwhile, there are other ways China might seek to boost
its stake in Britain’s nuclear fleet. For starters, CGN has approached the
UK government about developing Moorside, the site adjacent to Sellafield
which has been vacated by Toshiba, using its own technology. It could seek
to do something similar at Wylfa too. Moreover, Centrica is planning to
offload a 20 pc stake it holds in EDF’s existing fleet of UK reactors.
China could be a willing buyer if it is allowed to do so.

Whether or not any of this matters is of course another question, but amid growing
tensions with China over espionage and security, many figures within
Britain’s security establishment view the prospect as alarming.


January 26, 2019 - Posted by | politics, politics international, UK

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