UK hails Chinese nuclear investment

Updated: 2013-10-18 08:37

By Li Wenfang in Taishan, Guangdong (China Daily)

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Initial stakes will be small but will grow

The government of the United Kingdom welcomes Chinese investment — possibly including majority stakes — in the next generation of nuclear power plants, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said on Thursday.

Osborne made the remarks after visiting a nuclear power plant under construction in Taishan, Guangdong province. The plant is a joint venture between China General Nuclear Power Group and Electricite de France.

While initial Chinese investments in nuclear power are likely to be minority stakes, future stakes in new power stations could be majority stakes, Osborne said, according to a statement from the British Consulate-General in Guangzhou.

The remarks came after the signing of a bilateral memorandum of understanding on nuclear power cooperation in Beijing on Tuesday. The agreement took place amid the fifth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue held in Beijing, which was a key event on Osborne's itinerary in China.

The MOU covers cooperation in the areas of investment, technology, construction and expertise in the nuclear industry.

It also allows access by British companies such as Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, International Nuclear Services Ltd and the Mott MacDonald Group to new nuclear power programs in China.

International Nuclear Services signed an MOU with China Nuclear Power Engineering Co on sharing the British experience in managing radioactive waste and providing training to Chinese technicians in the UK later this month.

"Today is another demonstration of the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China — the world's oldest civilian nuclear power and the world's fastest-growing civilian nuclear power," Osborne said.

"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," he said.

"I am delighted to signal a green light in principle to companies such as CGN working with nuclear developers and operators in the UK on the UK's nuclear new-build program and, over time, playing a leading role in the UK's future nuclear power generation."

In a media interview, he said: "I've come here to this Chinese nuclear power plant site because I want to see the Chinese investment in the British nuclear power industry first as a partner with us. But I can see Chinese becoming majority owners of British nuclear power plants, subject to British safety rules policed by the British.

"In the short term, it's good because it means Chinese money instead of British taxpayers' money is used to construct a plant like this, so we can use our money for schools and hospitals. And, in the long term, it will deliver stable and lower energy bills for families in Britain.

"What I want to see is open investment — British investment in China, including into the Chinese nuclear program, Chinese investment in Britain. That will be good for jobs and investments in both countries."

The third-generation European pressurized reactor technology applied in the first phase of the nuclear power plant in Taishan will be used in the Hinkley Point C plant in the UK.

China-UK nuclear power cooperation began in 1985.

China has the largest new nuclear power production market in the world, with 17 reactors in operation and 28 more plants under construction.

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