UK edges closer to banning China from all nuclear power stations

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chinese energy firm CGN owns a one-fifth stake in the Sizewell C nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast

The British government is reportedly considering banning China from any involvement in the development or maintenance of nuclear power stations in the UK.

According to the Daily Telegraph (July 27), a “cross-party” group of “China hawks” in the House of Commons are applying pressure on the government to impose an “outright” ban on a Chinese state-owned firm’s involvement in all UK nuclear power plants.

The state-owned firm in question is China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) which is responsible for managing and developing nuclear power at home and abroad.     

The “China hawks” in the UK – led by the likes of anti-China Tory MPs Iain Duncan Smith and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat – reportedly have the full backing of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), which purports to be an international body working to “reform” how “democratic” countries engage with the Asian giant.

The Daily Telegraph quotes IPAC as warning that the UK is “dangerously exposed” by its “overreliance” on Chinese investment and technology in the “critical national infrastructure” sector.

Meanwhile, The Guardian (July 26) reports that British ministers are “looking for ways” to enable EDF energy to develop the £20 billion Sizewell C nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast without any input from CGN, even though the latter commands a one-fifth stake in the project.    

CGN involvement in EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is also under threat as the government – under pressure from China hawks – moves to banish the Chinese state-owned energy corporation from the UK.

This would constitute a big blow to CGN as it was hoping to use the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C projects as a springboard to developing a Chinese-designed reactor at Bradwell-on-sea in Essex.

The threat to ban China from any involvement in the UK’s nuclear future unfolds against the backdrop of rising Sino-British tensions and just weeks before a ban on all Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G network takes effect from September.


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