Beijing’s planned investment in UK’s civil nuclear program, part of its One Belt One Road initiative, is on increasingly shaky ground. When it recently emerged that China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CNG) had refused to give a visiting team of UK government inspectors the security details for one its reactors, a slew of negative headlines followed in UK media about Chinese involvement in Britain’s power supply. The inspectors, from the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation, had traveled to China to examine Fangchenggang’s Unit 3 nuclear power plant and its Hualong One third-generation pressurized reactor. The Hualong One design is earmarked for a planned Chinese-built nuclear power plant at Bradwell on England’s east coast and the inspectors were in China to start a complex four-year Generic Design Assessment [GDA] process that will end, the Chinese hope, with the reactor’s approval for use in Britain. “Is this a good investment for China?” asks nuclear risk expert Jerzy Grynblat. “It is very hard to say because, as it comes from the Chinese government, some of the sums will remain hidden. But what is perhaps more important to ask is why the Chinese state wants to invest when no western government will?” For Grynblat – who, before retiring in early 2017, was Nuclear Business Director at safety assurance consultancy Lloyd’s Register – it is “purely an expansion of political power.” The design of the Hualong One, Grynblat believes, is reminiscent of a Swedish reactor from the 1980s. “It surprised me a little,” he says. “It really is quite old fashioned. I am not saying this makes it unsafe, certainly not, but what it does is make use of well known technology. And this makes approvals more straightforward… And the GDA process that they are starting now in the UK is crucial to them. They will be able use this all over the world.” Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow at think-tank Chatham House and co-author of The World Nuclear Industry Status Reports, agrees. “It’s a first” says Froggatt. “It creates an important benchmark for China and it’s an important sales pitch. The GDA process alone brings kudos.” Yet Froggatt is not convinced that Bradwell itself will be built. “The industry is changing rapidly. Even since China first got involved in the UK in 2015, the price of offshore wind and solar has got much cheaper. There is also recognition in the UK government that the Hinkley contract cannot be repeated at Sizewell because it has made the cost of the power so expensive… Hinkley is happening but very slowly. They originally said it would be built by 2018. Now they are saying 2025… As such, I am now thinking that Sizewell will not happen.” “And Bradwell,” says Froggatt, “is a different story again…. It is a new reactor, it’s Chinese and there are the security issues.” He asks: “Will the Chinese ever be able to open up the design specifications?”
Asia Times 4th Nov 2017 read more »
Letter: CONGRATULATIONS to Vanessa Thompson last week for voicing so accurately in her letter some detrimental impacts of the proposed Bradwell B power station for our communities in the Dengie, those all along the Blackwater estuary, and beyond. Its coincidence with the news of £195 million from tourism was timely. Tourism income is clearly far more positive for the district than the destruction needed to make way for a vast permanent industrial complex that will be obsolete before it is up and running, yet committing us to pay foreign investors over the odds for what it might eventually produce. Meanwhile the first planning application for Bradwell B is now in, for investigating the site that covers most of the Dengie headland. How can the same council that turned down a temporary tea room on a Hythe boat because “at risk from flooding”, even begin to think they can support investigations for permanent buildings and extensive infrastructure for a hazardous and complex industry, when even the evidence given in the application confirms most of the site and approach roads risk being 3m plus under water? I wish I could be sure they won’t. The closing date for public comments on the application (17/01128) is November 10. It doesn’t have to be the done deal some people fear it might be if concerns are voiced.
Braintree & Witham Times 4th Nov 2017 read more »