How far will UK PM May go to seek wisdom on Hinkley Point?

This week she will travel all the way to China to find out. At the G20 meeting China will press her to approve the Hinkley Point nuclear plant. Here’s a roundup of press coverage of the high wire diplomacy expected to take place.

(Guardian) As UK PM Theresa May prepares to meet her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 summit, officials there have reportedly raised the issue of delayed Hinkley point nuclear power station.  May is expected to come under pressure from China at the G20 summit over her decision to review the proposed Hinkley nuclear plant.

May angered Beijing by deciding in July that approval of the French- and Chinese-backed £18bn nuclear plant would be delayed, apparently as a result of security concerns over Chinese involvement.

The Chinese government has been unusually forceful and undiplomatic in making its clear it wants the project to go ahead.  May and her ministers have stuck to the position that the government is “considering all the component parts of the project before making its decision in the early autumn.”

UK could approve Hinkley, but delay Bradwell

(Times of London) UK Prime Minister Theresa May is reportedly considering a proposal to detach development of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant from an agreement allowing China to build a nuclear reactor in Essex.

One option under consideration is to approve Hinkley, but delay a decision on the Bradwell reactor to allow a discussion about its effect on British security. Critics of the plan point to an American case of alleged economic espionage involving China General Nuclear (CGN) .A US nuclear engineer is facing charges he provided nuclear fuel information and reactor performance data to CGN without the necessary government approval.

The split in the agreement over UK reactors could put the entire deal involving three power stations in jeopardy since the Chinese investors see in the Bradwell plant an opportunity to showcase its domestic nuclear technology in Europe. China has started construction of two Hualong One reactors at in Fujian province. While it also has an MOU in place to build one in Argentina, the UK deal offers China its best chance to make the case for its reactor design with western industrialized countries.

No UK decision expected on Chinese-backed nuclear plan as PM May heads to China

(Reuters) Prime Minister Theresa May will not announce her keenly awaited decision on a partly-Chinese funded nuclear power project in the coming days, a British official said as May flew to China to meet President Xi Jinping at her first G20 summit.

But despite scheduling a 30-minute meeting with Xi on Monday to discuss the two countries’ future ties, May will stop short of sanctioning a Chinese-backed $24-billion plan for French firm EDF to build a nuclear power plant in southern England.

“We have said we’ll make a decision this month, that remains the plan. I don’t expect one in the next few days,” the official told reporters ahead of the visit

Critics of Hinkley Point C missing ‘The Bigger Picture’ says, EDF Energy CEO

(NucNet) Critics of the Hinkley Point nuclear station project in southwest England are at risk of “losing sight of the bigger picture” by failing to see the “positive impact and importance “ of the investment for the UK, EDF Energy chief executive officer Vincent de Rivaz said this week in an open letter published on the company’s website.

The plan to build the two EPR units for £18bn (€21bn, $24bn) at Hinkley Point was hit with an unexpected delay in July as the new UK government decided to hold another review only hours after EDF – the project’s state-owned French developer – had given it the go-ahead.  Separately, members of EDF’s board filed a protest that de Rivaz knew about the delay before the board meeting, but pushed for approval of the plan anyway.

China General Nuclear Power Generation (CGN) has a one-third stake in the project while the French side holds the rest. Mr de Rivaz wrote that China’s participation “is much more” than £6bn of investment as it brings the benefits of a partnership between EDF and CGN in nuclear construction in China. EDF is nearing completion of two Areva EPRs in China.

He wrote that the cost of Hinkley Point’s electricity should be compared with future energy prices and not those of today. Hinkley Point will be competitive with all future energy options, including fossil fuels, when the cost of carbon is taken into account.

Mr de Rivaz dismissed near term prospects for the potential use of small modular reactor (SMR) technology in the UK. He wrote that they are still surrounded by a number of future political and regulatory uncertainties and “we can’t afford to cross our fingers and muddle through in the hope that a new technology will meet all our needs at the right price.”

EDF sees Britain taking £6bn Hinkley stake
Government under pressure to step in to avoid ‘disaster’ if Chinese pull out of project

(Financial Times) EDF executives say the British government could have to take a stake of up to £6bn in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station to avoid a “disaster” if the Chinese decide to withdraw from the project.

Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, has warned that stalling the nuclear project could jeopardise relations between the two countries. The UK government has not set out a fallback option if the Chinese refuse to separate the Bradwell project from the overall deal and abandon their proposed investments in Britain. In public, Beijing remains committed to the deal.

However, there has been growing speculation in the nuclear industry that May is prepared to invest billions of pounds into Hinkley Point if it becomes necessary. “If the Chinese pull out, the UK government itself will raise the money,” said one industry source.

One senior EDF figure said: “If the Chinese pull out, there is no way that EDF will be able to pay for the rest itself. We would need the British or someone else to step in.”

The idea of the UK government taking stakes in new nuclear power stations was raised this week by the new boss of Horizon, the Hitachi-owned consortium that plans to build stations at Wylfa, on Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in Gloucestershire.

Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive of Horizon, said Hitachi could seek an equity stake from the British and Japanese governments. Hitachi could even end up merely as a contractor to Whitehall, Mr Hawthorne told the Sunday Times.

France said to see Hinkley unraveling as U.K. reconsiders

(Bloomberg) French President Francois Hollande’s government is concerned that discussions on the sidelines of the Group of 20 talks in China will sound the death knell for the Hinkley Point nuclear power project in the U.K.

UK PM May is bracing for tense diplomacy over the issue and is attempting to foster confidence that Britain remains open for business despite its decisions to leave the European Union and delay Hinkley Point.

Central to the debate are Hinkley’s growing costs and security issues related to China’s involvement in a strategic industry. In China, authorities see Hinkley as the start of a series of atomic projects in the U.K. that will serve as a showcase for future exports.

May “has upset the Chinese and the French,” said Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, London. “She could have dealt with this in a better way by saying she would review all major public spending, not just Hinkley.”

For France, Hinkley Point is “an exceptional opportunity,” Finance and Industry Minister Michel Sapin said at a press conference. The British government needs to “face its responsibilities” on deciding to proceed, he added. It would underpin the country’s nuclear-engineering industry with its many thousands of well-paid, skilled jobs.

Even within the French administration, the project received another blow this week when one of its key backers, Emmanuel Macron, resigned as economy and industry minister. Sapin has now taken over Macron’s responsibilities.

China has warned pulling the plug on Hinkley would damage its relationship with Britain.

“No country can develop by itself behind closed doors,” Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador in London, wrote in a column in the China Daily. “I hope that Britain will continue to be pragmatic and stay open to Chinese businesses.”

Key French backer of Hinkley Point will run for President

(NY Times) France’s pro-business economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, who supports the Hinkley Point project, has resigned from the Socialist government, clearing a path for him to possibly challenge an embattled President François Hollande in elections next year. His resignation has been anticipated for months. For Hollande’s part, he faces record lows in public approval ratings.

Unlike Hollande, who has called for a 25% reduction in French dependence on nuclear energy, Marcon has been a strong supporter of the nation’s use of the technology and its expansion via exports for projects like Hinkley Point.

Mr. Macron, 38, a former investment banker, was the face of a right leaning, free-market tilt by Mr. Hollande’s government. He infuriated France’s unions with his frank talk of opening up the country’s rigid economy, loosening job protections, and even rolling back the 35-hour workweek.

Main Construction Begins At China’s Fuqing-6 Hualong One

(NucNet) First concrete pouring for the nuclear island for Unit 6 at the Fuqing nuclear station in Fujian province has started, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said.

The event marks the beginning of the main construction phase for the reactor unit. Fuqing-6 will be of the domestic Generation-III design, also known as “Hualong One.”

There are six units at the Fuqing site – two in commercial operation and four under construction. Units 5 and 6 are of the Hualong One design.

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1 Response to How far will UK PM May go to seek wisdom on Hinkley Point?

  1. Marc says:

    Fuqing unit 6 nuclear island first concrete occurred in December 2015. The recent first concrete was only for the unit 6 turbine island.

    I’m curious to see how long it takes the new French president to repeal Hollande’s partial nuclear phaseout? Even Fessenheim might get a reprieve.


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