It has emerged that China could be looking to purchase a multibillion pound stake in the UK’s nuclear power industry, after showing interest in major stakes of eight power plants, including Sizewell in Suffolk.
Discussions will be reinitiated between Britain and China over the latter’s involvement in the UK’s nuclear power industry, after approval was suspended two years ago over security concerns surrounding Hinkley Point C.
The power plants China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has shown interest in are run by French energy giant EDF Energy, which are thought to be hoping to offload some of its stake as Centrica has only put up its 20% stake while CGN are looking to acquire a 49% stake.
CGN is increasing its presence in the UK’s atomic plans and becoming an increasingly important player, giving UK Prime Minister Theresa May something to consider as she has already expressed concerns over giving China greater access to Britain’s critical infrastructure.
Paul Dorfman, a senior researcher at University College London’s Energy Institute, said the UK was alone in its openness to Chinese investment.
Dorfman said: “It’s entirely credible [that China would be allowed to buy the stake] in the context of what the British government is doing,” he added: “There is no other OECD country that would allow China to own any of its critical infrastructure, let alone its nuclear infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, he said EDF’s €33bn debt means it is eager to sell assets where possible. “EDF is in financial difficulties and has been for some time. It’s looking to sell off whatever it can sell off. It’s worried about debt, its credit rating … plus its waste and decommissioning liabilities,” he said.