Hinkley Point delay ‘frustrates’ Chinese investors – BBC News

2 months, 21 days ago
Media captionWhy do we need a new nuclear plant? Simon Jack explains

The government’s surprise announcement to delay a final decision on Hinkley Point has left the Chinese company investing in it ‘bemused’ and “frustrated” according to a source.

French firm EDF, which is financing most of the 18 bn project in Somerset, approved its funding at a board meeting on Thursday.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation is contributing a third of the money.

Contracts were due to be signed by all the parties on Friday.

But in a astound move, the government said it was “only right” to review such a significant project and would make a decision by the autumn.

‘Respect’

According to the BBC’s Newsnight programme it was security concerns over Chinese ownership of British nuclear power stations that were the primary reasons for Prime Minister Theresa May deferred a final judgment on the bargain until afterward in the year.

Meanwhile, EDF’s UK boss Vincent de Rivaz has written to staff, saying: “The new “ministers ” has been in post for merely 16 days. Her full cabinet has been in post even fewer.

“We can understand their need to take a little time. We fully respect the prime minister’s method.”

He added: “The very good news is that we are ready. The[ EDF] board’s decision means that when the government is ready to go ahead, we are ready too.”

‘No more dithering’

The delay decision has been described as “bewildering and bonkers” by the GMB union national secretary for energy Justin Bowden, who dread it could jeopardise 25,000 jobs.

“After years of procrastination, what is required is decisive action not dithering and more lag, ” he said.

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Continuing support

Both EDF and CGN have reiterated their support for the scheme.

Jean-Bernard Levy, EDF Group chief executive said he remained confident the project would go ahead.

But a source close to CGN has told the BBC that everyone in the company was “bemused” by the sudden nature of the government’s proclamation and had been given no real insight into the reason for the postpone other than being informed it was something the cabinet of ministers wanted.

It was also frustrated that the government had allowed speculation about national security concerns to continue.

China Concerns

Nick Timothy, who is a close adviser to Mrs May, has previously raised serious concerns about Chinese investment in areas that could threaten Britain’s security.

Last year, the chancellor at the time, George Osborne, said investment in Hinkley Point could lead to the Chinese designing and constructing a new nuclear reactor at Bradwell in Essex.

At the time Mr Timothy wrote on the Conservativehome website that if that happened experts feared China could “build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will”.

The BBC’s industry correspondent, John Moylan said a senior delegation from China had flown in specially to attend the signing and they were now having to return home.

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Hinkley Point construction

5, 600

workers on site at peak

4, 000 km electrical cabling

230, 000 tonnes of steel

5. 6m cubic metres of globe to be moved

Media captionFormer energy secretary Lord Barker says Hinkley Point likely to go ahead Image caption Greenpeace called for the ‘radioactive white elephant’ to be stopped in its ways