Sunday Times 6th Sept 2015

DAVID CAMERON is set to sign a landmark deal next month to allow China to build a prototype nuclear reactor in Bradwell, Essex. The plant would be the first Chinese-designed and operated facility in the West.
It is the price Beijing has extracted in return for its agreement to help pay for two new plants to be built by France’s EDF Energy — one at Hinkley Point in Somerset and the other at Sizewell, Suffolk.

The deal, part of a wide-ranging civil nuclear pact between Britain, France and China, may be sealed in October during the Chinese president’s state visit.

Last week EDF admitted that Hinkley Point, Britain’s first atomic power station in two decades, will be hit with fresh delays. It was originally scheduled to open in 2017, but wrangling over how it will be funded has held up the start of work.

Problems with the EPR reactor design have also stymied progress, and the company admitted last week it would not open before 2024. Whitehall officials are hammering out the final details of an agreement under which two of Beijing’s state power companies, China General Nuclear and China National Nuclear Corporation, will take a large minority stake in Hinkley Point. They would also be junior partners, and cover part of the costs, for a follow-on plant at Sizewell.

EDF would lead the construction and operation of both sites. In return for Beijing’s support on those plants, EDF would sell its rights to a development site it owns at Bradwell. The French would become a minority partner and assist the Chinese through Britain’s approval process for a new reactor design, a process that is among the most arduous in the world. Beijing would then use that certification as a selling point as it bids to become the world leader in nuclear technology. The Chinese design is expected to be capable of producing one gigawatt of electricity — enough to power 1m homes.