Britain’s nuclear regulators are considering whether another Chinese-funded and designed nuclear reactor should be built in Bradwell, Essex.
The reactor would be funded and designed by the state-controlled China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) and the French power company Électricité de France (EDF). It could take British authorities up to four years to formally approve or reject the new reactor.
“The robust independence of the UK’s regulators is seen across the world as a key strength for nuclear in Britain,” Zhu Minhong, General Manager of CGN in Britain, told Reuters. “CGN and EDF will bring to this enterprise their joint experience in China, Britain and France over many years.”
The U.K.’s previous attempt to build a nuclear power plant with the exact same Chinese company didn’t got well.
British Prime Minister Theresa May almost cancelled a previous China-backed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point due to its high costs and environmentalist opposition. The U.S. charged the Chinese company behind the Hinkley Point plant with nuclear espionage in August.
A columnist for a Chinese state-run media outlet called May’s reluctance to approve of the Hinkley Point nuclear power project a result of “China-phobia.” CGN agreed to pay about $8 billion of the reactor’s $24 billion dollar cost.
China’s ambassador to Great Britain issued an ultimatum over the delay earlier in August, pointing out Chinese companies have invested more in the U.K. over the past five years than in France, Germany and Italy combined.
EDF agreed in July to build the Hinkley Point nuclear reactors by 2025 after years of delays. If the reactors aren’t built, U.K. taxpayers could be on the hook for $31.6 billion, according to documents released by the government. EDF is still planning to build the reactors, despite the company’s serious financial problems and the fact that the project is below investment grade.
EDF previously delayed making a decision about Hinkley Point several times before finally approving it after already investing $2.85 billion. EDF is more than $40 billion in debt and has a history of abandoning or delaying similar reactors in France.
A 2012 YouGov poll showed 63 percent of U.K. respondents agreed nuclear reactors should be part of the country’s energy mix, up from 61 percent in 2010. Opposition to nuclear power fell to 11 percent from 15 percent.
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