Nuclear plant deal with UK announced

Updated: 2014-06-18 02:57

By Cecily Liu and Zhang Chunyan in London

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China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corp signed an agreement with Rolls-Royce on Tuesday to work closely in the field of civil nuclear power in the UK and other overseas markets.

The agreement builds on Chinese nuclear industry's increasing interest to participate in the UK's nuclear field, a trend supported by both governments.

"China represents one of the world's largest civil nuclear markets in which Rolls-Royce has been supplying safety-critical technology and solutions for 20 years," said Jason Smith, president of Rolls-Royce's nuclear division.

China and the UK want to strengthen the cooperation on civil nuclear power. The British government welcomes China's investment and participation in the Hinkley Point C project in southwest England.

Two Chinese nuclear companies, China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corp, reached an agreement last year with French utility company EDF to invest in the project.

It will be the first new nuclear plant in Europe since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan.

Led by EDF, the project is expected to cost 14 billion pounds ($23.8 billion) and is expected to begin operations in 2023 and run for 35 years.

The two Chinese companies are expected to have a combined 30 to 40 percent stake in the consortium, EDF said. A spokesman for the CGN said talks were ongoing.

Nigel Cann, Hinkley Point C construction director with EDF Energy, said the Chinese partners can bring valuable experience — such as helping the project to stay on schedule and be within budget — from their construction of nuclear projects in China.

A number of engineers in Cann's team worked on Daya Bay and Taishan, two nuclear projects in China, will bring their knowledge to Hinkley Point C, he said.

Industry insiders have said one reason the UK has become an attractive destination for foreign investment is that it has not retreated from nuclear energy after the Fukushima crisis.

"In the UK, there is no opposition to nuclear power as long as safety standards are met," said Marco Baroni, a senior energy analyst in the Directorate of Global Energy Economics at the International Energy Agency.

After safety guarantees, the next big consideration for the UK's nuclear industry is cost. Boroni said the cost efficiency of Chinese companies gives them a big advantage.

Peter Haslam, head of policy at the UK's Nuclear Industry Association, said China has an impressive record in delivering nuclear programs and has ambitious programs for the future. "We hear about the new power stations the Chinese are building. The reports we're getting say they are successful."