Britain and China inked an agreement in 2015 to allow Beijing to own a part in the country’s newest nuclear power plants, but London is reconsidering due to funding and security concerns around new power station projects. Financing for a planned power station facing the North Sea, estimated at 20 billion pounds (USD 28 billion) and required to assure a consistent supply of electricity for decades, is unexpectedly in doubt.
Attracting investors to a project that is one-fifth owned by China is a challenge. According to Stanley Reed of The New York Times, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian goals and human rights record have chilled relations with Western nations, requiring a comprehensive rethink of a variety of business interactions.
The 2015 nuclear deal planned for China to be a majority owner of a proposed facility of its own design, located approximately 50 miles from London. Despite the fact that the project is proceeding through regulatory processes, MPs are expected to be strongly opposed to it. China aspires to be a global supplier of nuclear power facilities, but Britain is not the only country exploring a deal, according to Reed. He cited recent difficulties in China’s nuclear plant operations in Romania, the Czech Republic, and other countries.
Evidence of the hazards was buried in the financial figures published on Thursday by Electricite de France (EDF), a French utility firm that owns and manages Britain’s eight operational nuclear power plants.
According to The New York Times, the corporation is halfway through the construction of Britain’s first new nuclear station since the 1990s, at Hinkley Point in southwest England, a project one-third controlled by China General Nuclear, China’s state-owned nuclear company.
EDF requested the British government in its quarterly results to adopt legislation shortly allowing for a new, less hazardous financial and regulatory arrangement before the business launches on the North Sea project near the fishing community of Sizewell.
The crucial question, however, is whether the existence of China General Nuclear will cause financial institutions, particularly those from the United States, to pause, according to Reed. In 2019, the corporation was placed on a US government blacklist, preventing American companies from doing business with it, for attempting to obtain advanced American nuclear technology for military reasons.
Furthermore, Britain has joined the United States in prohibiting Huawei, a Chinese telecom supplier, from high-speed wireless networks on security grounds. The destiny of Britain’s nuclear program will ultimately be decided by the government; one possibility rumored to be on the table is the British government purchasing China’s part in the Sizewell project, according to The New York Times.
China’s global nuclear ambitions are at stake in the United Kingdom. Its proposals for a nuclear power station near London, at Bradwell-on-Sea, are being reviewed by the British government, a vital move that Beijing hoped would pave the way for acceptability in other foreign markets. However, the British government has turned against Beijing over a number of issues, including a crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, a former British colony, and the harsh treatment of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
According to industry insiders, it is now difficult to imagine the government sanctioning a Chinese-designed and majority-owned factory near London, as envisioned for the Bradwell project, said Reed.