George Osborne: China will invest in UK nuclear power
Chinese nuclear company CGN looks likely to strike a deal with EDF Energy as early as next week
CHANCELLOR George Osborne has signed an agreement with China that paves the way for Chinese companies to fund Britain's nuclear power projects – and the first deal could be struck as early as next week.
China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) looks likely to take a stake in the Hinckley Point C site in Somerset, where a new nuclear power station is being built.
EDF, which is leading the £14bn project, has been looking for a partner to share the costs. It has opened negotiations with CGN and two other Chinese nuclear giants, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and the State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC).
Osborne, who is currently on a trade visit in China, has met with representatives from all three companies. He made his announcement today from Taishan, in southern China's Pearl River Delta, where CGN and EDF have already teamed up to build a power plant.
The agreement could lead to China taking a future majority stake, even owning up to 100 per cent of British nuclear power projects.
The BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, says the main attraction for the Chancellor in allowing Chinese companies to invest is that they have "deep pockets".
Osborne has said it marks the "next big step in the relationship between Britain and China" and said that "if it wasn't for Chinese investment it would have to be British taxpayers' investment".
Meanwhile, China is building nuclear power plants at a pace unparalleled in the rest of the world, says the Financial Times, and a deal in the UK could help their international reputation. Mainland China operates 17 nuclear reactors, with 29 under construction, and the country is planning a fourfold increase in capacity by 2020.
Mamdouh El-Shanawany, head of new nuclear opportunities at Lloyd's Register, told the FT: "The Chinese have big ambitions to market their technology internationally, and being part of the UK nuclear project will help them achieve that." ·