Ministers are reportedly considering taking a stake in a proposed new power plant at Sizewell in Suffolk after it was revealed that the government was seeking to kick China’s state owned nuclear firm out of the project.
The Times reported that the government is mulling options for funding the £20bn Sizewell C project, the UK’s first new nuclear plant in a decade.
These include buying a multi-billion pound stake of the project or finding new investors to replace China General Nuclear, EDF’s current junior partner in the plant.
Officials have been in talks with EDF since December over funding options for the plant.
It comes after the FT reported that ministers were looking at ways to remove CGN from the UK’s nuclear programme.
The tougher stance comes amid a ramping up of diplomatic tensions between the UK and China over issues such as the repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and a crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.
The government has already banned Chinese tech giant Huawei from building the country’s 5G network due to concerns about national security.
However, some have warned that such a step could risk derailing the country’s attempts to replace its ailing nuclear fleet.
As well as its involvement at Sizewell, CGN is EDF’s partner at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which is slated to open in 2026.
Under a deal signed by then-Chancellor George Osborne at the beginning of the short-lived “golden era” of UK-Sino relations in 2015, CGN is also signed up to build its own reactor at Bradwell in Essex.
A source told the Times: “All the deals hang together. If you open up one of the deals, you open all of them. It’s never going to be as simple as ‘pull out of Sizewell’. I’d be amazed if CGN didn’t say: ‘You want us to put some more money into Hinkley Point? Well screw you.’”
All but one of the UK’s existing nuclear power plants will be in decommissioning by the end of the decade, with only Hinkley currently under construction.