Government opens up UK nuclear projects to Chinese investment

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has announced that Chinese companies will be allowed to take a stake - including potential future majority stakes - in the development of the next generation of British nuclear power.

The Government has said that initial Chinese stake in a nuclear power project is likely to be a minority stake but over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes if they comply with regulatory standards for safety and security.

Today’s announcement follows the signing this week in Beijing of a new memorandum of understanding on civil nuclear collaboration witnessed by the Chancellor and his Chinese counterpart, Ma Kai.

It will mark the first step of the memorandum, which sets the strategic framework for collaboration on investment, technology, construction and expertise.

As part of this, the Chancellor has announced that the UK based International Nuclear Service has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Nuclear Power Engineering Company Ltd this week, to share UK experience on radioactive waste management, and will start with some initial training activities for Chinese technicians in the UK later in October.

The Chancellor said: “Today is another demonstration of the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China – the world’s oldest civil nuclear power and the world’s fastest growing civil nuclear power. It is an important potential part of the Government’s plan for developing the next generation of nuclear power in Britain. It means the potential of more investment and jobs in Britain, and lower long-term energy costs for consumers”.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey added: “This is an exciting development, strengthening our relationship with China in a way that will benefit both countries. Investment from Chinese companies in the UK electricity market is welcome, providing they can meet our stringent regulatory and safety requirements”.

Last month, research published by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) showed that opposition to nuclear power in Britain has fallen since 2005, despite the Fukushima accident in 2011, which led to a nuclear disaster with the plant causing significant radioactive contamination.

Attitudes in Britain have become more positive in recent years, with similar proportions of people now supporting (32%) and opposing (29%) the use of nuclear power, compared to percentages of 26% and 37% respectively in 2005.

Strengthening their relationship further, the UK and China, last month, pledged to continue co-operation to promote low-carbon development and energy efficiency technologies.

A joint statement, signed by Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker and the Governor of Guangdong (People’s Republic of China), Zhu Xiaodan, will see a “deepened co-operation” between the UK and China in researching low-carbon technologies, developing clean energy and co-operating on green, low-carbon architecture.

The agreement will also help the two nations promote clean and energy efficient manufacturing and building capacity in low carbon policy making and implementation.

Leigh Stringer

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