China cleared to buy into UK nuclear plants

17 October 2013

Chinese companies will be allowed to take a stake in the UK's next generation of nuclear power plants following the signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) on nuclear cooperation by the two countries.

 UK-China MOU signing (HM Treasury)_460
Lord Deighton and Xu Yongsheng shake hands on the conclusion of the MoU (Image: HM Treasury)

UK Chancellor George Osborne described the step as "an important potential part of the government's plan for developing the next generation of nuclear power in Britain." He announced the development during a visit to the Taishan site in southern China, where two French-designed EPR reactors are being built through collaboration between EDF and the China General Nuclear Power Company (CGN).

"Closer cooperation with world’s fastest growing nuclear nation presents substantial opportunities for UK companies with expertise, skills and long experience in nuclear technology."

Lord Hutton, NIA chairman

Chinese companies could eventually become majority stakeholders in new UK nuclear plants, although initially they are only anticipated to take minority stakes, the UK treasury has said. It further noted that any investment from any country must comply with rigorous UK regulatory standards.

French company EDF owns and operates all but one of the UK's currently operating nuclear power plants through its EDF Energy subsidiary. The company is planning to build new EPR plants in the UK at Hinkley Point C and at Sizewell C, and has been involved in long negotiations with the UK government over market conditions prior to making an investment decision on the former.

Amid widespread speculation of an imminent announcement the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change has today confirmed that negotiations between Government and EDF Group on the potential terms of an investment contract for Hinkley Point C remain ongoing and that an agreement has yet to be finalised, contradicting earlier media reports that a deal had been agreed.

CGN has been discussed as a possible investor in Hinkley Point since UK gas supplier Centrica pulled out of its nuclear new-build joint venture with EDF Energy earlier this year. Chinese companies including CGN have also been suggested as possible bidders for Horizon Nuclear Power, which holds two further sites approved for UK new build projects.

Lord Hutton, chairman of UK industry body the Nuclear Industry Association, said the announcement was evidence of the attractions of the UK nuclear market to overseas investors. "Closer cooperation with world’s fastest growing nuclear nation presents substantial opportunities for UK companies with expertise, skills and long experience in nuclear technology," he said.

China-UK cooperation

The MoU, signed by UK treasury secretary Lord Deighton and Xu Yongsheng, head of China's National Energy Administration, sets the strategic framework for collaboration on investment, technology, construction and expertise. As well as supporting Chinese investment in Britain, the UK Treasury says it will also ensure that UK companies can be part of the nuclear new-build program in what Osborne described as "the world's fastest growing civil nuclear power."

Further to the MoU, UK-based International Nuclear Service has also signed an agreement with Chinese Nuclear Power Engineering Company Ltd to share UK experience on radioactive waste management, under which Chinese technicians will begin initial training activities in the UK later this month.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News