The British government is probing ways to block China’s state-owned nuclear energy company from future power projects in the UK, according to media reports citing government sources.
The move could see China General Nuclear (CGN) kicked out of a French-Chinese consortium which is planning to build the £20 billion ($27.6 billion) Sizewell C nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast and another one in Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.
According to both Bloomberg and the Independent, unnamed sources have confirmed a recent report by the Financial Times that first brought to light the UK government’s stance on China’s participation in the projects.
“There isn’t a chance in hell that CGN builds [Sizewell C],” a source cited by the Financial Times claimed, noting that “given the approach we’ve seen to Huawei, [UK authorities] aren’t going to be letting a Chinese company build a new nuclear power station.” The source also revealed that UK authorities were already in talks with the main developer of Sizewell C, the French state-backed company Électricité de France S.A. (EDF), regarding chances to find new partners for the project. CGN didn’t respond to requests for comment on the report, while EDF declined to give any.
The UK and China have been cooperating on nuclear power projects since a deal reached by former Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. CGN is an investor with a 33% share in the Hinkley Point C nuclear facility in Somerset, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK, currently under construction.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian called China and the UK “important trade and investment partners” at a briefing on Monday, noting that as it is in everyone’s interests to cooperate “in the spirit of mutual benefit” the UK should “provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.”
The British government has been increasingly critical of China’s policies of late, namely with regard to its stance on Hong Kong, the alleged mistreatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, and the handling of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan province. Boris Johnson’s administration recently blocked China’s Huawei Technologies from taking part in the set up of the UK’s 5G wireless network, while Britain’s national security adviser ordered an investigation into the takeover of the UK’s major chip producer by the Chinese firm Nexperia NV.
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