Post-Huawei, China UK nuclear power role queried
‘We have complete domination by China when we should be strategically reviewing it’: Tory Iain Duncan Smith
By JEAN-BAPTISTE OUBRIER
AUGUST 22, 2020
After Britain ordered the phased removal of Huawei from its 5G network, attention has now switched to China’s role in other areas of the UK, particularly its involvement in key nuclear power projects.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries are already fraught as a result of Beijing’s introduction of a controversial security law in former British colony Hong Kong.
But the rows over first Huawei and now the nuclear issue are adding to the pressure.
Among those leading the charge against China is former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who wants China’s role in Britain’s nuclear future to be reassessed.
“Our energy policy is in the hands of the Chinese,” the Tory MP said in a recent article in British daily, The Telegraph.
“Just in that one sector, we have complete domination by China when we should be strategically reviewing it.”
China General Nuclear Power (CGN) is working alongside France’s EDF in the construction of a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, in southwest England, which is due to be completed in 2025.
The pair are also awaiting formal approval for a new plant at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast in eastern England.
In both cases, CGN is the minority partner.
But in another project, the Bradwell nuclear reactor in southeastern England, it is CGN which will hold the majority stake.
Breakingviews – China-UK feud could spill over into nuclear power
July 7, 2020 / 6:50 PM / 2 months ago
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – China and Britain are increasingly at loggerheads. Beijing is unhappy with Britain’s decision to offer up to 3 million Hong Kong citizens the right to live and work in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks increasingly likely to ban equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies from British 5G mobile networks. The two countries’ collaboration on nuclear power stations could be the next flashpoint.
Just as with telecom equipment, Sino-British nuclear power ties are deeply intertwined. China General Nuclear Power (CGN) holds a 30% equity stake in a company that is building the 20 billion pound Hinkley Point C power station in the west of England. The state-owned Chinese group also has an option to acquire 20% of another planned plant at Sizewell C in Suffolk, and a majority stake in an entity looking into several more. The projects are integral to Britain’s ambition to decarbonise its energy supply by replacing the fifth of electricity provided by ageing, soon-to-be-decommissioned nuclear plants.
It’s possible for the two sides to consciously uncouple. Beijing could let its options over future UK power stations lapse, for example. Rethinking the Hinkley project would be much more complicated. Even then, the UK could buy out Beijing’s stake, or promise it a share of the cash flows in return for a less engaged role.
UK power planners, CGN and EDF will prefer to maintain the status quo. But given the rising tensions between Britain and China, the risk of a meltdown is rising.