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Britain approves Hinkley Point nuclear deal
By Katherine HADDON
London (AFP) Sept 15, 2016

UK guilty of 'China-phobia' over Hinkley: Xinhua
Beijing (AFP) Sept 15, 2016 - Chinese state media on Thursday welcomed Britain's approval for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant but attacked "China-phobia" in London, after new conditions were attached to the mammoth project.

"Finally, London has made a welcoming move by giving the go-ahead order to a key nuclear power plant program after it was suspended over some fictitious 'national security' concerns about Chinese investment," the Xinhua news agency said in a signed commentary.

China has a one-third stake in the French-led project in southwest England, which eventually is meant to deliver seven percent of Britain's electricity needs for 60 years.

Critics say the arrangement could give China the power to plunge Britain into darkness, and the new British government of Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a review of the project in July.

It finally gave the green light on Thursday, but added provisos to ensure it can intervene to stop any sale of the Hinkley stake held by French power group EDF, and to wield more control over future nuclear projects.

"Of course, the British leader's misgivings make little sense," the Xinhua commentary said, speculating that May was pandering to domestic critics.

"Had the program gone under, all sides were to lose dearly, while China-Britain relations could have been tossed into uncertainty," it said, while warning that future problems are inevitable as Hinkley Point is built.

"Therefore, let us hope that London quits its China-phobia and works with Beijing to ensure the project's smooth development."

Path to power: timeline of new British nuclear plant
London (AFP) Sept 15, 2016 - Following is a timeline of 10 key dates after the British government's decision Thursday to approve a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point involving China after a review over security concerns:

January 2008

The British government approves a new generation of nuclear power stations, expected to be privately built, with most of the 19 reactors at Britain's 10 existing nuclear plants expected to close by 2023.

October 2010

Hinkley Point in Somerset, southwest England, is named among eight potential sites for building new nuclear power stations.

November 2012

Britain awards its first new nuclear power plant site licence for 25 years to French energy giant EDF, which eyes building a station at Hinkley.

March 2013

The British government grants planning consent for EDF to build a new nuclear power plant at the site, capable of producing seven percent of Britain's electricity.

October 2013

The British government agrees that it will pay 92.50 ($122.40, 108.80 euros) per megawatt-hour for electricity produced at the site -- around double the market rate at the time.

September 2015

Having pushed back its decision on whether to invest in Hinkley, EDF says the 2023 completion date would not be met. The British government approves a 2 billion guarantee for the project.

October 2015

The state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group signs a deal with EDF to take a one-third stake in the new power station following a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

July 2016

EDF makes its final investment decision on building the nuclear power plant, priced at 18 billion.

On the same day, new British Prime Minister Theresa May announces a delay on the decision to go ahead, ordering a review.

September 2016

Britain gives final approval to the project, but with new conditions to address security concerns.


Projected year when the new Hinkley nuclear power station would become operational -- currently two years later than originally planned.

Britain finally gave the go-ahead Thursday for Hinkley Point, its first nuclear plant in a generation, but set conditions to address concerns over China's role in a flagship project for Europe's nuclear sector.

The announcement, welcomed by its French and Chinese backers, came two months after Prime Minister Theresa May caused shockwaves by ordering a review of the PND 18 billion (21 billion euro, $24 billion) deal brokered under her predecessor, David Cameron.

China has a one-third stake in the project and analysts had warned that Britain could have jeopardised relations with the world's second-largest economy if it scrapped the deal while critics said it could give China the power to turn off the lights.

Jean-Bernard Levy, chief executive of the French state-owned power company EDF, said the move "relaunches nuclear power in Europe".

EDF's board had already approved its participation in the project in southwest England in July when May's government suddenly announced it was pausing it.

"We have decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation," Britain's Business Secretary Greg Clark said in a statement, while pledging fresh measures "to enhance security".

He told parliament that the plant's construction would create 26,000 jobs and guarantee seven percent of Britain's electricity needs for 60 years.

It will be "a huge boost to the economy", he said.

- 'National security' test -

One of Downing Street's prime concerns was over the security implications of allowing China to take such a large stake in a critical infrastructure project.

Beijing's state-run China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN), the Chinese investor in Hinkley Point, was also set to take the lead in the Bradwell power station project in Essex in southeast England.

But Clark's ministry explained the government was taking steps to ensure it could intervene to stop any sale of EDF's stake and to give the government more control over future nuclear projects.

Olivia Gippner, a fellow in EU-China relations at the London School of Economics, said the framework was aimed at China but "by introducing a general national security test rather than focusing only on Chinese investment, this is a very diplomatic solution".

CGN said in a statement on social network Weibo it was "delighted" at Thursday's announcement and would now "move forward and deliver" on Hinkley Point, as well as the Bradwell plant.

Chinese state media also welcomed the approval, but accused Britain of suffering from "China-phobia".

"Finally, London has made a welcoming move by giving the go-ahead order to a key nuclear power plant programme after it was suspended over some fictitious 'national security' concerns about Chinese investment," the Xinhua news agency said in a signed commentary.

"Let us hope that London quits its China-phobia and works with Beijing to ensure the project's smooth development."

- 'Huge' obstacles -

CGN is set to finance PND 6.0 billion of the cost of the Hinkley Point plant, with EDF providing the remaining PND 12 billion.

EDF's share price was down 1.5 percent in afternoon trading on the Paris stock exchange following concern about how the company will fund construction.

But French Prime Minister Manuel Valls hailed the deal as "excellent news" for France's nuclear sector and domestic employment.

May called French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday evening to tell him that the British government had approved the project, the French presidency said.

Critics have focused on an electricity price guarantee to be paid to EDF of PND 92.5 for every megawatt hour of power produced by Hinkley for the next 35 years, rising with inflation, despite falling energy prices.

However, professor Juan Matthews from the University of Manchester explained that future reactors were expected to produce cheaper power and that Hinkley was needed to help meet carbon emission targets.

"The strike price (the cost of electricity) for nuclear plants is generally substantially lower than those for renewable energy," he said.

Campaigners against Hinkley Point meanwhile handed in a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to May's Downing Street office on Thursday with environmental pressure group Greenpeace.

The Hinkley facility will not be operational until 2025 -- two years later than originally planned when the deal was first unveiled.

Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at London's Greenwich University, said there was still "a number of major hurdles to get through before Hinkley can go ahead" including financing at EDF's end.

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Previous Report
Hinkley Point: a huge nuclear gamble for France
Paris (AFP) Sept 15, 2016
The British government's long-awaited green light for the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in England on Thursday is of vital importance to France and its state-backed energy industry. French nuclear power giant EDF is piloting the Pounds 18 billion (21 billion euro, $24 billion) project with investment from China. Here are the stakes for France: Nuclear power key to French economy ... read more

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