The Colchester Gazette doesn’t publish letters online which is a pity. This one from Professor Barry Jones is particularly interesting.
News that Chinese state-owned companies remain interested in the possibility of building and operating a new nuclear power station at Bradwell should remind all readers that nuclear power is not a business like any other business and that Chinese state-owned companies are not companies like any other companies.
Nuclear power remains one of the most dangerous forms of power generation. The Fukushima disaster showed that, while nuclear power stations are not potential nuclear bombs, they are potential ‘dirty bombs’ able to distribute lethal doses of nuclear contamination for considerable distances if, and when, they malfunction. Worse, the Stuxnet sabotage of Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities has shown how vulnerable computer-controlled industrial systems are to sabotage or to built-in vulnerabilities. No one in government has given any convincing indication of how a Chinese-built power station could be protected against serious ‘back-doors’ into their computer-based operating and safety systems.
The discussions about possible Chinese involvement at Bradwell also seem to have been undertaken without any explicit concern for the motives of the Chinese state-owned companies and their political masters. China is awash with foreign currency earnings from exports and with orders for new, domestic nuclear power stations. Chinese governments are also looking to the longer-term establishment of regional, if not wider, political dominance. They are also particularly keen to reverse past humiliations, like those inflicted on China during the Opium Wars of the 19th century. The range of motivations for Chinese involvement in any new nuclear at Bradwell – only fifty miles from central London – thus demand greater investigation than has been the case to date. These motivations should certainly not be overlooked in the Government’s rush to secure a substantial share of the future business in offshore Chinese currency and financial arrangements for their friends in the City of London.
R.J. Barry Jones – Emeritus Professor of Politics and International Relations – The University of Reading