A DEAL is expected to be announced next week that will see Chinese firms work with French power giant EDF to build a nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday paved the way for Chinese investments in UK nuclear projects with a memorandum signed in Beijing.
He made the potentially-controversial announcement allowing stakes in UK reactors as he wound up his visit to China.
It was immediately criticised by green campaigners, who argued that the investment needed at Hinkley would be better spent on renewables.
The first deal under the Osborne agreement could be announced as early as next week with the go-ahead for a £14 billion plant at the Hinkley C site.
EDF and the UK government have been in lengthy negotiations on the “strike price”, which will guarantee how much EDF will get for the electricity generated at the plant.
Initially, Chinese firms are likely to hold a minority stake, but this could rise in time to a majority one.
Speaking at the Taishan nuclear power station in southern China, Osborne said: “This is another demonstration of the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China – the world’s oldest civil nuclear power and the world’s fastest-growing civil nuclear power.
“It means the potential of more investment and jobs in Britain, and lower long-term energy costs for consumers.”
But Friends of the Earth director of policy and campaigns Craig Bennett said: “The government has chosen to give enormous long-term handouts to Chinese and French companies when they could be developing a world-class renewable industry in the UK.”
David Hunter, of energy consultancy Schneider Electric in Dunfermline, said he didn’t see the announcement as a negative for the renewables industry in Scotland, despite the additional resources going to nuclear.
“There is room for both as they serve different purposes in having a secure and diverse mix of energy sources for the UK,” he said.