China’s big bet on the UK nuclear program

China General Nuclear (CGN) will invest $9 billion in EDF Hinkley C nuclear power station which is slated to deliver two giant 1600 MW Areva EPRs by the middle of the next decade.

In an agreement signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and UK Prime Minister David Cameron during a state visit to the UK in late October, CGN will take a 33.5% equity stake in the project. EDF intends to offer a portion of its 66.5% stake to other investors, but did not name them as part of the announcement.

EDF said it will retain at least a 50% share for itself. The project is expected to cost about $26 billion. CGN will make its investment through a new company in the UK called General Nuclear International.

EDF and CGN have agreed to a wider partnership in the UK. It will start with the development of the Sizewell C project which also involves two Areva EPRs. CGN is expected to offer long lead time components for the reactor project as well as engineering expertise.

The most significant element of the extended agreement is that at the Bradwell site the two firms will form a joint venture. That firm will seek regulatory approval for CGN’s version of the Hualong One, the export version of a Chinese Gen III 1000 MW PWR.  EDF said that it may take at least three years to get through the process.

CGN is reported to be offering to take a 66.5% equity stake in Bradwell in the project with EDF taking a 33.5% share.

The UK is under enormous pressure to build new nuclear reactors. The government has pledged to close all of its coal fired power plants by 2025. Only one of the current fleet of 15 nuclear reactors is expected to still be in service by then.

The Chinese deal was welcomed in the UK by a wide range of business interests. The Hinkley Project will create an enormous number of construction jobs as will each of the subsequent new reactors which are expected to add 19 Gwe of electrical power to the UK grid before 2030.

China to fund UK nuclear R&D center

China and the UK have agreed to work together to jointly fund a nuclear R&D center with initial funding set at $78 million.  Chinese vice premier and Uk Chancellor George Osborne announced the plan in Beijing at a UK-China economic summit.

The UK National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) said it will be the lead organizational home for the joint center.  which also involves the China National Nuclear Corp.  Early R&D work scope is very ambitious and will focus on the nuclear fuel cycle. Other projects are expected to include advanced manufacturing methods for reactor components, and creation of a nuclear skills academy to train workers to build the UK’s new reactors.

According to a WNA report, Prof. Andrew Sherry, Chief Scientist at NNL, said that some R&D work will be on advanced nuclear reactor designs including small modular reactors. He noted one of them is intended to produce process heat for chemical process manufacturing as well as electricity. Other designs will address using MOX fuel and other forms of advanced uranium fuels.

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