In Focus

China General Nuclear: banned from Britain?

The brief ‘golden era’ of Sino-British relations has turned ‘radioactive’

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab observed last year that Britain could no longer conduct “business as usual with China”. The UK’s highest-profile action so far has been to force the Chinese telecoms supplier, Huawei, out of Britain’s 5G network, said the FT. But now ministers are seeking to “ditch” China General Nuclear from future UK power projects – ending a collaboration dating back to a 2015 agreement between David Cameron and Xi Jinping. The move reflects growing concerns about CGN’s “role in critical infrastructure” and follows a similar ban in the US, which put the Chinese state-owned company on an “export blacklist” in 2019, “alleging it had stolen US technology for military purposes”. 

CGN holds a minority stake in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant currently in Somerset and a 20% stake in the planned Sizewell B plant on the Suffolk coast – both projects led by the French group EDF Energy. CGN had hoped these would be a “springboard” to building and running a Chinese-designed reactor “within 30 miles of London” at Bradwell in Essex, said Jillian Ambrose in The Guardian. That controversial scheme is now deemed a political non-starter, and the Government has also started talks with EDF about finding alternative investors for the other two plants. 

The brief “golden era” of Sino-British relations has turned “radioactive”, said Ben Marlow in The Daily Telegraph – exposing great holes in UK energy policy. Ministers claim “the removal of the Chinese will encourage other partners to come forward”, but “there is no proper contingency plan”. How very unsurprising, said Alistair Osborne in The Times. “Given the explosive costs of large nuclear, the debate shouldn’t be over how to replace China on these projects. It’s whether we need Sizewell and Bradwell at all.”

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