The US has issued a stark warning to the UK about partnering with China’s largest state-backed nuclear company on a host of new power plants, saying it has evidence that it is engaged in taking civilian nuclear technology and transferring it to military uses. Christopher Ashley Ford, the US assistant secretary for international security and non-proliferation, said that China General Nuclear (CGN), which is a partner on the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear project, among others, was at the forefront of Chinese efforts to militarise civilian nuclear technology. Mr Ford said the US had shared evidence, both “open source” and from intelligence gathering, with the UK, showing CGN was involved in the transfer of technology that could be used for a range of military applications. That could include powering China’s new breed of nuclear powered submarines, aircraft carriers and “floating nuclear reactors for the ongoing militarisation of the South China Sea”, Mr Ford said. “If CGN is engaged in helping the Chinese navy . . . with missiles that could presumably be pointed at western capitals, including London . . . It’s worth thinking about whether that’s a particularly good idea,” Mr Ford said. The bluntly delivered warning comes as UK prime minister Theresa May has tried to increase scrutiny of Chinese investment in key UK infrastructure compared to her predecessor David Cameron, including over involvement in nuclear power plants. Last month, CGN told the Financial Times that political sensitivities could prompt it to give up the chance to operate a new atomic power plant at Bradwell in Essex, as the group also outlined ambitious plans for an industrial partnership with Britain. Zheng Dongshan, chief executive of the company’s UK subsidiary, said he understood it would “take time to show the public, the government, they can trust us”. The Bradwell plant in Essex would use CGN’s own reactor technology. Critics of the US stance against CGN have said that the UK has limited modern nuclear knowhow or technology to steal, hence why it has partnered with China and France’s EDF on a new wave of reactors. CGN has invested more than £2bn in its British nuclear projects in the past two years, and has committed to spend £9.5bn in this area in total.
FT 24th Oct 2018 read more »