Britain is said to be exploring ways to remove China’s state-owned nuclear energy company China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) from all future power projects in the UK.
The more hawkish policy will cast doubts over a £20bn project to build the Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk, which is being led by French firm EDF with backing from CGN.
It also affects proposals by CGN to build a new plant at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex using its own reactor technology.
Commenting on the report, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said “practical cooperation” was in the interests of both sides.
“The British should earnestly provide an open, fair and non discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies”, they said
“It is in the interests of both sides to conduct practical cooperation in the spirit of mutual benefit and a win-win result.”
The tougher stance, which was first reported by the Financial Times, 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.
At the G7 summit last month the UK and China pledged to deepen ties in tech and scientific innovation with a number of measures, including working together to strengthen the resilience and security of critical supply chains.
But the crackdown on CGN will also raise questions about the future of the UK’s nuclear energy programme.
The Chinese company has already invested in the Hinkley Point C nuclear facility, which is currently under construction in Somerset.
But currently Hinkley Point is the only new nuclear project under construction, with the majority of the country’s existing fleet of power plants due to be decommissioned over the next decade.
In its energy white paper, released last year, the government said that it would bring one new nuclear project to the point of final investment decision (FID) by the end of this Parliament.
A government spokesperson said: “All nuclear projects in the UK are conducted under robust and independent regulation to meet the UK’s rigorous legal, regulatory and national security requirements, ensuring our interests are protected.”