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Britain needs to rethink – whether it really needs new nuclear power, in view of tensions with the supplier, China.

For the UK government, the question is whether a new generation of nuclear power is as necessary as it seemed a decade ago. Financing challenges, rising costs and endless delays have all made nuclear less attractive, while the costs of alternative sources of supply such as offshore wind have fallen sharply.

How growing conflict with China could impact UK nuclear power, Given the tension between the two countries, the UK is unlikely to give China access to its nuclear energy. But a trade dispute would affect us more than them, Prospect 10th April 2021, By Nick Butler 

”………. The deterioration of relations between London and Beijing, for instance, now threatens to derail the development of nuclear power in the UK and force a rethink of Britain’s energy policy.

A decade ago, China was the new strategic ally of the British government under David Cameron and George Osborne, a potential counterweight to dependence on either the European Union or the United States. Chinese investors were invited in—not least the fledgling Chinese nuclear industry, which sought to use Britain as a stepping stone to penetrate world markets. The stepping stone took the form first of an investment in the new nuclear plants being developed by the French state company EDF, including the Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, and then a Chinese-led project to build, own and operate a further nuclear reactor at Bradwell in Essex.

The intervening period has seen state-to-state relations sour. ……………………..

Given the divisions which have emerged, it is impossible to envisage the UK government now giving approval to the development of the Bradwell power station. The reason, of course, has nothing to do with the technology or the competence of China General Nuclear Power Group (the Chinese company involved).  China has become a leading player in the global nuclear power business. The problem is that nuclear power stations are part of the UK’s strategic national infrastructure, and China is no longer a friend to be trusted with such levers of power. China’s recent behaviour has compounded the doubts which already existed around the wisdom of giving it control of nuclear capacity and open access to the UK’s national grid.

China, however, would with some justification regard the postponement or cancellation of the Bradwell project as a breach of contract. If China decides that the link with EDF to finance a third of the costs of Hinkley and contribute to other French-led projects was conditional on Bradwell, CGNP could end its involvement and demand its money back. 

For the UK government, the question is whether a new generation of nuclear power is as necessary as it seemed a decade ago. Financing challenges, rising costs and endless delays have all made nuclear less attractive, while the costs of alternative sources of supply such as offshore wind have fallen sharply. With the exception of the hope that the smaller scale modular reactors being developed by Rolls-Royce can provide some additional capacity in the 2030s and beyond, nuclear power is barely mentioned in the government’s recent statements on its plans for reducing the use of hydrocarbons and cutting emissions. For the immediate future, given that Hinkley is still the only new reactor under construction in the UK, everything depends on the reliability of the existing nuclear plants—most of which have been in operation since the 1980s……. https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/nuclear-investment-power-uk-china-government-energy

April 12, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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