World / Europe

New nuclear plant backed by China must await Britain's nod

By Cecily Liu (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-30 02:47

Britain said it would review plans to build a Chinese-backed nuclear power plant and deliver a final decision in the fall, after the board of France's EDF Energy, the main investor, approved plans on Thursday for the plant.

British Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said that the British government will now "consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in early autumn".

The plant would be built at Hinkley Point in southwest England.

The 18 billion pound ($23.7 billion) nuclear power plant would mark the first Chinese investment in a nuclear project in a developed country.

If the plan goes ahead, China General Nuclear Power Corp would have a 33 percent share in the project.

Clark's announcement came as a surprise, since the government of former prime minister David Cameron had been enthusiastic about the project. Cameron stepped down this month following the European Union membership referendum in June, and Theresa May formed a new government.

The Chinese government still must formally approve the plan, a CGN spokesman said.

"The UK needs a reliable and secure energy supply, and the government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix," said Clark.

The CGN spokesman, who requested anonymity, said, "CGN remains committed to delivering this much-needed nuclear capacity with our strategic partner, EDF, and providing the UK with safe, reliable and sustainable energy.

"We respect the new (UK) government's need to familiarize itself with a project as important to the UK's future energy security as Hinkley Point C, and we stand ready to help the government in this respect," said the CGN spokesman.

EDF and CGN's cooperation on Hinkley is the first step of a larger collaboration effort between the two companies, including EDF's agreement to support CGN's investment at the British nuclear power plant Bradwell at a later stage. For that, CGN will be the majority investor, and Bradwell will use Chinese nuclear technology.

Tim Yeo, chairman of pressure group New Nuclear Watch Europe, said the project will create many jobs in the construction sector in the next five to seven years. EDF hopes to have more than 2,500 workers on site by next year.

However, critics warn of the project's potential technological challenges and escalating costs. The project is set to use European pressurized reactor technology.

Flamanville, a site in France using the same technology, reportedly is more than three times over budget and years behind schedule.

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