Nuclear: Prime Minister invited to elaborate on potential suppression of Chinese companies

Labor has asked for clarification on how the government plans to pull the Chinese state-owned energy company out of nuclear power projects in the UK.

Asked about Chinese involvement in nuclear projects at Bradwell and Sizewell during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ) yesterday, Boris Johnson said the UK “does[es] I don’t want to see undue influence from potentially antagonistic countries in our critical national infrastructure, ”and stressed the new national security rules on investment that come into effect in January.

Johnson added that more information is “to come” on what he decides on the Bradwell B project.

General Nuclear System, a joint venture between China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and EDF, a minority partner, has been working for several years to obtain authorization to develop a new plant at Bradwell B in Essex. A public consultation on its plans took place last year.

Johnson added, “What I don’t want to do is unnecessarily divert all Chinese investment in this country or downplay the importance for this country of having trade relations with China.”

Shadow Labor Party climate change minister Matthew Pennycook had also asked about CGN’s investment in the Sizewell C project, where it is a minority development partner with EDF. A government decision on the building permit for the Suffolk project is expected in March. Johnson did not refer to the project in his response.

Pennycook later said on Twitter: “We need certainty about the future of China’s involvement in British nuclear power and clarity on how and when the government intends to withdraw. China’s state-controlled nuclear power company from any involvement in any future UK projects. “

CGN also owns a 33.5% stake in the £ 23 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction in Somerset, where it is also a partner of EDF. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.

Last month, the government announced it would continue its long-standing adoption of the regulated asset base funding model for nuclear power projects, with up-front costs covered by consumers’ energy bills. The Treasury later revealed it would provide upfront funding of £ 1.7bn to enable the final investment decision for a large nuclear project, and confirmed the £ 385m funding plans for the research on small modular reactors and advanced modular reactors.

An EDF spokesperson said the new financing system was a big step forward for Sizewell C, adding that construction could start before 2024 and create thousands of jobs. “Sizewell C will provide low-carbon local electricity to six million homes and help reduce our dependence on imported energy. This will play a key role in helping the UK reach net zero, ”the spokesperson added.

The UK currently has seven nuclear power plants, of which Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B, Heysham I and Hartlepool nuclear power plants are all set to retire by the end of March 2024, while Hunterston and Hinkley Point B will be in the first phase. dismantling by mid-2022. Of the existing fleet, only Sizewell B should be operational after 2030.

During Wednesday’s PMQs, Johnson also encouraged the expansion of Britain’s lithium mining industry in response to a separate question about Chinese control over minerals used to make tech products.

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