Beijing: Britain will allow Chinese companies to take majority stakes in nuclear power projects in the country, finance minister George Osborne said on Thursday.
Osborne made the announcement during a visit to the Taishan atomic power station in southern China, the British government said in a release, at the end of a trip which saw a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
“Today is another demonstration of the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China — the world’s oldest civil nuclear power and the world’s fastest growing civil nuclear power,” Osborne said in the release.
The document said initial Chinese stakes in nuclear power stations in Britain were likely to be minority shares, but added: “Over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes.”
The announcement comes amid reports that China General Nuclear Power and French energy giant EDF have agreed a controversial deal to build a new atomic power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Osborne said his announcement was “an important potential part of the government’s plan for developing the next generation of nuclear power in Britain”.
“It means the potential of more investment and jobs in Britain, and lower long-term energy costs for consumers,” he added.
The Taishan facility is a joint venture between the Chinese firm and EDF, according to the release.
The civil nuclear accord — the first ever between the countries — was signed on Tuesday in Beijing at a China-UK economic dialogue.
Then, Osborne hailed it as heralding government support for “closer collaboration” between British and Chinese companies, adding: “I hope that this strategic agreement will form the foundation for specific areas of commercial cooperation.”
At the time he declined to discuss specific commercial deals and said discussions between the British government and EDF over the Hinkley Point reactor project were “ongoing”.
The MOU establishes a “strategic framework” for the two sides to work together in “investment, technology, construction and expertise”, the British release Thursday said, with the latest announcement marking “the first step and signal by the UK Government” as part of the agreement.
Britain’s claim to be the world’s oldest civil nuclear power derives from the opening of the first commercial nuclear power facility at Calder Hall in 1956.
According to the British government release, China has 17 operating nuclear reactors with another 28 under construction.
The MOU also ensures that British companies including Rolls Royce, International Nuclear Services (INS) and engineering enterprises such as Mott MacDonald can grab a share of China’s nuclear programme, the release said.
Osborne has announced that INS this week signed an MOU with Chinese Nuclear Power Engineering Co. that calls for sharing British skill in radioactive waste management, the release said.