1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

UK approves Hinkley Point

September 15, 2016

The British government has finally approved the building of its 'first new nuclear power station in a generation' on the condition that the Chinese and French project developers address vital security concerns.

Atomkraftwerk Hinkley Point in Großbritannien
Image: picture-alliance/Simon Chapman/LNP

Following a comprehensive review of the Hinkley Point C project, London said Thursday it would proceed with the controversial nuclear power plant - Britain's first in a generation.

Hinkley Point C is to be built by French state-owned company EDF and is meant to provide about seven percent of UK power after its completion, scheduled for 2025. EDF will assume most of the up-front costs for the reactor, which are estimated to amount to 18 billion pounds (21 billion euros, $24 billion).

Under the deal, Beijing's state-run China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) is set to finance 6.0 billion pounds of the costs for which it has received a one-third stake in the project.

New legal framework

The deal between Britain, France and China was brokered by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron. His successor Theresa May, however, ordered a review of the project in July, following British voters' decision to leave the European Union.

Britain's Business Secretary Greg Clark said in a statement on Thursday the government had given the go-ahead after introducing a series of measures "to enhance security and to ensure Hinkley cannot change hands without the government's agreement."

In what Clark described as a "revised agreement with EDF," London is allowed to draft a new law allowing the government "to intervene in the sale of EDF's stake once Hinkley is operational." Moreover, Britain would take a special share in all future nuclear projects.

Both the French and Chinese interests in Hinkley Point appear to agree to the new legal framework. EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy welcomed the decision on Thursday, saying Britain's approval "relaunches nuclear power in Europe."

And a source close to Chinese investor CGN told the news agency Reuters that company leaders were "very happy" with the decision that would enable them to proceed with investing in UK nuclear power.

Dispute over security and pricing

Campaigners against the project were due to hand in a 300,000-signature petition to May's Downing Street office later on Thursday. Spearheading the drive are activists from the "Stop Hinkley" pressure group, who argue the price for power generated by Hinkley is too high and the technology is outdated.

"Consumers can tell that the project may be unconstructable, requires vast subsidies and would generate electricity too expensive to use," Stop Hinkley spokeswoman Sue Aubrey said in a statement.

London signed a 35-year electricity price guarantee contract with EDF in October - known as a "contract for difference" - under which the utility will receive a top-up fee if power prices are below 92.50 pounds per megawatt-hour (MWh). The British day-ahead power price is currently around 40 pounds per MWh, meaning consumers would have to pay prices twice as high for Hinkley Point electricity.

Moreover, a number of politicians, including Theresa May's joint chief of staff Nick Timothy, voiced concern about the security aspects of China's involvement in the project. Timothy wrote in a blog last year that it was "baffling" that Britain had welcomed investment by state-owned Chinese companies. He suggested CGN could build weaknesses into IT systems "which will allow them to shut down Britain's energy production at will."

uhe/jd (Reuters, AFP, dpa)