16 October 2013 | By Stuart Nathan
The chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, is in China, attempting to open the floodgates to a rush of investment from its overflowing coffers from mass manufacturing and raw materials into the UK economy. A major focus of the trade mission is to secure investment in the UK’s nuclear sector, with an agreement signed yesterday on civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries and talks believed to be taking place on China’s state-owned operator, Chinese General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), taking a substantial minority stake in the Hinkley Point C station which EDF is proposing to build in Somerset.
The Financial Times is reporting that part of the deal will allow CGN itself to build and co-operate a nuclear power station in the UK at some unspecified point in the future, subject to the same safety regulations that other operators have to meet. CGN’s reactor design would also have to pass the Generic Design Assessment necessary for any new reactor to be approved for UK use.
We’re all now aware of the government’s approach to UK infrastructure: it doesn’t matter who owns it as long as it works. But this one will ring alarm bells.
When EdF is saying that British firms can’t reach the material traceability standards to even provide components for Hinkley Point — UK engineering contribution seems to be limited to digging holes and pouring concrete — should we really be laying down quite as much of a red carpet to Chinese firms, whose regard for safety is an unknown quantity? In fact, with continuing concerns about Chinese cyber-attacks on foreign governments’ computer systems, should we really be inviting companies which many believe to be effectively arms of the Chinese government into our critical infrastructure at all?
Rittal Enclosures www.rittal.co.uk