Tories demand review of Chinese involvement at Hinkley nuclear site. Calls for a new review are growing amid diplomatic tensions between Britain and China over Hong Kong and the telecoms equipment maker Huawei. Senior Conservatives are this weekend demanding a review of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant after a Sunday Telegraph investigation found a Chinese state energy company is more closely involved in the project than previously disclosed. Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said he believes that ministers had been misled when they approved the role of China General Nuclear in the £22.5bn reactor. Theresa May’s government was assured in 2016 the Beijing-controlled company would be a financial partner only when it took a 33.5pc stake in Hinkley alongside the lead developer, France’s EDF. The Sunday Telegraph found conflicting statements from the Chinese and the French over the number of Chinese workers on the site. CGN has said it has “more than 100 engineers and technical experts working on Hinkley”, while EDF has put the number at between 20 and 30. Both companies this weekend declined to comment. Corporate and project sources said CGN’s role goes beyond financial support, with EDF leaning heavily on Chinese technical expertise. “Of course, we work closely with the Chinese,” said one project source. The collaboration has become so close that CGN has warned EDF New Nuclear Build, the division responsible for building Hinkley, not to share commercially sensitive information with its sister company EDF Energy, which operates nuclear sites across Europe. Nick Timothy, who tried unsuccessfully as Mrs May’s top adviser to block the Chinese deal, said: “Hinkley Point was supposed to involve French expertise and Chinese investment, and even then it was a bad deal on several fronts. “If it is true that China has a significant operational role at Hinkley then there are many questions that need to be answered. “Is this consistent with what ministers signed off in 2016? Have these employees been given full security clearance? By whom are they employed? Has EDF been fully transparent with the British government?” Mr Timothy said: “We must not allow China any further role in our critical national infrastructure, especially our nuclear power stations.”
Telegraph 25th July 2020 read more »
China takes a bigger role at Hinkley as nuclear reactor pressure rises. EDF is reliant on expertise of Chinese minority partner to finish nuclear plant, according to analysts. EDF executives suppressed horror as their Chinese partners made a risky suggestion. Senior engineers from China General Nuclear (CGN) proposed a way to lift a concrete dome on to the reactor at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. According to EDF sources, their plan would have entailed dangling the 270-tonne structure over more than 5,000 workers on site at the time. CGN staff pointed to how the move had been successfully executed at Taishan, a nuclear power plant built by the two companies in China. “That was in China, not the UK,” one executive recalls thinking, before the idea was rebuffed as far too dangerous. Yet CGN has played a far greater role in the planning and construction of Hinkley than previously disclosed, according to a Sunday Telegraph review of company documents and interviews with insiders. As security concerns over Chinese involvement in critical infrastructure are escalated by diplomatic tensions, a project meant to herald a new era of cooperation on nuclear energy faces renewed scrutiny. Antony Froggatt, a nuclear expert at the Chatham House think tank, highlights the concerns over CGN’s role at Hinkley. “It’s been portrayed more recently as a financing role,” he says, “but it doesn’t make sense for it to be just that.” “They want more engagement from an engineering perspective. They want experience in manufacturing a nuclear plant in the UK.” At EDF nuclear power stations under construction in France and Finland, the reactor has been plagued with technical issues and cost overruns. More than 13 years after work began on the two sites, the reactors have not been switched on. In fact, the only place where the technology has worked successfully is Taishan, the Chinese nuclear site where EDF and CGN first collaborated. Analysts and insiders say that experience means EDF is reliant on CGN expertise at Hinkley, where spiralling costs and delays threaten the delicate economics of the project. “Of course we work closely with the Chinese,” said one project source.
Telegraph 25th July 2020 read more »