Boris Johnson's £23billion nuclear plot under threat from China crackdown: ‘Unpalatable!’

Environmental groups slam Hinkley Point nuclear power plant deal

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In November, the Prime Minister outlined his “10 point plan” for a “green industrial revolution” which will create and support up to 250,000 British jobs. Number three on that list was researching “clean” nuclear energy and “developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors”. One way the Government hopes to achieve this is through the construction of Hinkley Point C in Somerset – a nuclear power plant due to open in June 2026 which will cost as much as £23billion.

The financing of the project is still to be finalised, but the construction costs will be paid for by the mainly state-owned EDF of France and Chinese state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).

But, according to reports in the Financial Times, the Government is looking to remove CGN from future UK projects, including the £20billion Sizewell C nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast.

CGN was hoping to use both projects as a springboard to building a Chinese-designed reactor at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

But Whitehall is said to have cited fears that a Chinese nuclear plant within 30 miles of London would be “politically unpalatable”.

Boris Johnson's plans are facing a roadblock

Boris Johnson’s plans are facing a roadblock (Image: GETTY)

Hinkley Point C is currently under construction

Hinkley Point C is currently under construction (Image: BBC)

A source added: “A minority Chinese interest in a nuclear project could probably be tolerated.

“But the direction of travel towards a Chinese-owned project at Bradwell is no longer tenable.”

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, said: “The British should earnestly provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.

“It is in the interests of both sides to conduct practical cooperation in the spirit of mutual benefit and a win-win result.” 

The crackdown could jeopardise the plans to finish Hinkley Point C.

READ MORE: Macron’s grip on UK: Boris Johnson’s £23billion nuclear plan ‘dependent’ on France 

A Chinese state-owned company is part of the plan

A Chinese state-owned company is part of the plan (Image: GETTY)

Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said CGN’s investment in Hinkley was designed to make a profit and help secure its plant at Bradwell. 

He warned that, with both of those in jeopardy, the company could quit the UK.

Prof Thomas pointed out that with Hinkley’s budget having jumped from £14billion to £23billion, it was no longer clear whether the consortium would make a profit. 

He said: “I would have thought that would put it into loss-making territory.

“They may well be very happy for an excuse to get out of it.

Nuclear power is a key part of Mr Johnson's plan

Nuclear power is a key part of Mr Johnson’s plan (Image: GETTY)

China is facing a crackdown from the Government

China is facing a crackdown from the Government (Image: GETTY)

“If Bradwell is off the agenda and Hinkley Point won’t make money, why stick around?”

Hinkley Point C is set to supply about seven percent of the nation’s electricity from 2026.

But this date would appear unachievable without the Chinese investment.

The Government’s move to curb China’s role comes amid rising concerns about its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Britain has already announced plans to remove technology made by China’s Huawei from its 5G telecoms network by the end of 2027.

William Murphy

William Murphy

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