China could take majority stake in future UK nuclear plants

17 October 2013

The UK government has announced that Chinese companies will be able to take a stake - including potential future majority stakes - in the development of nuclear power plants in the UK.

UK chancellor George Osborne made the announcement during a visit to the Taishan nuclear power station in Southern China on 17 October.

The agreement means the potential of "more investment and jobs in Britain, and lower long-term energy costs for consumers," Osborne said.

While any initial Chinese stake in a nuclear power project is "likely to be a minority," the government said that over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes.

Any investment would have to comply with "rigorous regulatory standards for safety and security," it said.

Recent reports by the British media suggest a contract to build the UK's first nuclear power station in almost 20 years could be just weeks away, with negotiations between EDF Energy and the government on a strike price nearing conclusion.

The two reactors that EDF is planning for Hinkley Point C in Somerset are key to the coalition government's plans to shift the UK away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon power, particularly nuclear and offshore wind. EDF has been searching for partners to share the costs in the project since Centrica, which held a 20% stake, withdrew earlier this year.

China-UK MOUs

The announcement follows a memorandum of understanding on civil nuclear collaboration between China and the UK. That MOU will make sure that British companies such as Rolls Royce, International Nuclear Services (INS) and engineering companies like Mott MacDonald can be part of China's multi billion pound new nuclear programme.

The UK based International Nuclear Service also signed a MOU with the Chinese Nuclear Power Engineering Company Ltd, to share UK experience on radioactive waste management. Initial training activities for Chinese technicians in the UK will start later in October, a statement said.

Photo: Visulization of Hinkely Point C (Source: EDF Energy)

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