Hinkley Point: UK approves nuclear plant deal

Hinkley Point: UK approves nuclear plant deal

  • 49 minutes ago
  • From the BBC section on Business
Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C building proposalsImage copyrightPA
Image captionArtist’s impression of Hinkley Point C building proposals

The government has given the go ahead for a new £18bn nuclear power station in the UK after imposing “significant new safeguards” to protect national security.

The new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset is being financed by the French and the Chinese.

In exchange, China wants to use its design for new UK nuclear stations.

The Chinese welcomed the decision, saying they were not concerned about new rules on future projects.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, group chief executive of French firm EDF, which is building the plant, said: “The decision of the British Government to approve the construction of Hinkley Point C marks the relaunch of nuclear in Europe.”

The government said it would now “impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain’s critical infrastructure”.

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Critics of the deal have warned of escalating costs and the implications of nuclear power plants being built in the UK by foreign governments. France’s EDF is funding two-thirds of the project, which will create more than 25,000 jobs, with China investing the remaining £6bn.

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The Chinese agreed to take a stake in Hinkley, which will meet 7% of Britain’s energy needs, and to develop a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk on the understanding that the UK government would approve a Chinese-led and designed project at Bradwell in Essex, which has raised questions over national security.


Development land where the reactors of Hinkley C nuclear power station at Hinkley Point will be builtImage copyrightAFP

Analysis: Simon Jack, BBC business editor

It’s a yes – with strings.

A new agreement means that the government will be able to block the sale of EDF’s controlling stake in Hinkley. The government will also take a special or “golden share” in all future new nuclear projects. This will ensure that significant stakes cannot be sold without the government’s knowledge or consent.

There will also be increased scrutiny of the national security implications of foreign ownership of critical infrastructure. There is no specific mention of China’s plans to design and build their own reactor at Bradwell but Chinese company CGN have welcomed this decision and sources close to the company say it will press ahead with their Bradwell ambitions under these new rules with confidence.

The price of the electricity, the parties involved and the future of UK nuclear all look the same. That will prompt some to ask what the hiatus since July’s surprise review has really achieved.


In a statement, the government said: “After Hinkley, the British Government will take a special share in all future nuclear new build projects. This will ensure that significant stakes cannot be sold without the Government’s knowledge or consent.”

It added: “There will be reforms to the government’s approach to the ownership and control of critical infrastructure to ensure that the full implications of foreign ownership are scrutinised for the purposes of national security.”

The state-owned China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) said: “We are delighted that the British Government has decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation.

“We are now able to move forward and deliver much needed nuclear capacity at Hinkley Point, Sizewell and Bradwell with our strategic partners, EDF, and provide the UK with safe, reliable and sustainable low-carbon energy.”

Guarantees

Energy Secretary Greg Clark, told the BBC: “I think it was right for a new government to look seriously at all the components of the deal.

“What we have decided is that for critical infrastructure generally we want to make sure our powers in this country are comparable to those of others, to be able to check that national security considerations are taken into account.”

He added: “So what we have done here in Hinkley is require that EDF, the principal operator, guarantees – makes a commitment – that they won’t dispose of their stake without the government’s consent unless and until the plant is built. And in future all nuclear power plants will be subject to the same regime.”

Projected sources of energy generation in the UK

The government has not altered the guaranteed payment of £92.50 per megawatt hour for electricity generated. Shadow energy minister, Barry Gardiner said it was “too high a price” and it should have been renegotiated.

Claire Jakobsson, head of climate and environment policy at EEF ,the manufacturers’ organisation, said it was a relief to see the project going ahead “after months of delays and uncertainty”.

“However, this project will clearly require a vast amount of support and it remains to be seen whether this deal is able to offer value for money. If new nuclear is to continue to play a major role we must see significant reductions in strike prices for future projects,” she added.

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, called the announcement “good news”, adding: “Investors are hungry for further signs from the government that the UK is open for business.”

The decision on investment was approved by EDF’s board in July, and wasagreed in principle with China during the state visit by President Xi Jinping to the UK in October 2015.