China’s state-owned nuclear energy company could be blocked from all future power projects in the UK, with ministers understood to be considering ways to prevent its involvement.
The move could block China General Nuclear (CGN) from involvement in a consortium planning to build the £20bn Sizewell C nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast, as well as one in Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.
A Whitehall source has confirmed a report by the Financial Times that first revealed that the government is exploring ways of removing CGN from future nuclear power projects in Britain.
The move would likely stoke further tensions between the UK and China, and would also mark a toughening of Britain’s stance toward’s Beijing.
China’s involvement in nuclear power in the UK dates back to an agreement endorsed by then prime minister David Cameron and Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2015.
But relations have sourced since then amid major concerns about Beijing’s clampdown in Hong Kong and the treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang.
One unnamed official told the FT said talks had also been held on halting CGN involvement in Sizewell C and there was little chance of involvement in the Bradwell-on-Sea project. “There isn’t a chance in hell CGN builds Bradwell.”
The Sizewell C project has been proposed by a consortium of French firm EDF and CGN, with planned ownership being 80 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Nuclear power has an important role to play in the UK’s low-carbon energy future, as we work towards our world-leading target to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050.
“All nuclear projects in the UK are conducted under robust and independent regulation to meet the UK’s rigorous legal, regulatory and national security requirements, ensuring our interests are protected.”
Campaign group Stop Sizewell C has said building the power station will damage the landscape and wildlife habitats, and any subsides for the costly project would be better invested in renewables.
A environmentalist campaign group has described the potential impact of the Sizewell as “wholesale carnage”. Together Against Sizewell C (Tasc) claimed millions of fish off the coast of Suffolk could be sucked into the plant’s cooling mechanism over a 20-year period.
The project suffered a significant setback earlier this year after major investors ruled out providing funding for the £20bn project.
Additional report by PA