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UK Government could take stake in Sizewell C to end Chinese involvement

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Sizewell's existing nuclear power station

The UK Government is reportedly planning to take a direct stake in Sizewell C to end China General Nuclear’s (CGN) involvement with the project. 

According to the Guardian, the Government could announce an injection of millions of pounds of taxpayer funds towards the new nuclear reactor as soon as next month. The move will likely spark outrage in China, with CGN set to be barred from any further involvement.

The Chinese state-owned company has been instrumental in the development of the new nuclear power station at Sizewell, with the company having a 20% stake in the project. The firm isn’t only stumping up part of the cash, however, with many in the industry worried about CGN’s removal from the project also leading to a significant brain drain

At Hinkley Point C, another project that CGN is heavily invested in, there are more than 100 CGN engineers on-site, Those engineers are critical in the development of the new nuclear power stations. 

Like Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C is set to utilise European Pressurised Reactor technology, which was first successfully installed at a CGN facility in Southern China. That means the company has crucial expertise in this new reactor technology, which won’t be easily replaced. 

Pressure to remove CGN from the UK’s new nuclear projects comes as the United States has heightened its focus on combating China’s rising influence around the globe. It has repeatedly warned that CGN’s involvement in nuclear power in the UK would risk national security, and that the US stands ready to assist in the event of China’s removal from the projects. 

EDF will remain as the operator of Sizewell C, and will be providing the lion’s share of the funding, however it is said to be looking for firm commitment from the UK Government before progressing with the project any further. In fact, EDF has been lobbying for a regulated asset base funding mechanism, which would utilise private sector investment in the project, to help reduce the strike price of electricity produced at Sizewell C. 

News of the UK Government’s possible decision to kick CGN off the Sizewell C project has been cautiously welcomed by GMB National Officer Andy Prendergast, although he has warned that steps to accelerate net zero need to be taken faster.

In a statement, Prendergast noted, “There will be no net zero by 2050 without new nuclear, and there will be no ‘just transition’ without the tens of thousands of jobs that would be supported by the delivery of vital low-carbon energy projects like Sizewell ‘C’.

“But the UK Government was well-warned before by GMB about the precariousness surrounding the Chinese state’s investment in the delivery of our future energy infrastructure, and now those chickens are coming home to roost.

“In the grip of a growing energy crisis, urgency is required – the last generation of work-horse nuclear power stations that have helped keep the lights on and delivered prosperity in working-class communities will soon start decommissioning.

“For the sake of a green jobs transition, security of supply, and net zero ambitions, the government must step-up with the necessary funding formula and legislation to help secure our energy future.”

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