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China takes stake in EDF nuclear project in Britain

French nuclear power plant operator EDF has reportedly signed a deal with two Chinese energy companies for a one-third stake in the next generation nuclear project at Hinkley Point in Britain.

According to Paris-based newspaper Les Echo, French power giant EDF agreed to relinquish a 33.5 percent stake in its Hinkley Point nuclear project in the UK.

The deal was reportedly worth 25 billion pounds (34 billion euros, $38.7 billion), Les Echo said Tuesday, with China General Nuclear Power Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation jointly acquiring the stake.

The two Chinese state-owned companies were to build part of the two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, southwestern England, Les Echo said. The agreement also included an option for them to build a Chinese "Hualong" reactor at Bradwell, which is also owned by EDF's British subsidiary EDF Energy.

A report in the Financial Times on Tuesday said the deal was already signed hours before the arrival of Chinese president Xi Jinping in Britain Monday evening, and would officially be announced Wednesday.

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Hapless project

Xi's four-day state visit to Britain is intended to build closer business ties, with the Chinese stake in the hapless project seen by London as an opportunity to advance Hinkley Point, two years after it first gave the green light for it.

The 16 billion-pound project to build two European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs), designed by French firm Areva, was announced in October 2013. But financial problems at Areva and long delays at two EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland have delayed the British project.

Hinkley Point will feature a third-generation reactor design considered the most advanced and safest in the world, each with a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts. The reactors are expected to be able to power five million homes, providing seven percent of Britain's electricity needs.

However, EDF Energy's boss, Vincent de Rivaz, recently acknowledged the 2023 deadline for the reactors to come online was unlikely to be met because of the time taken to negotiate the investment. The new completion date would be 2025, British media reported.

uhe/cjc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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