Go-ahead will depend on several factors because of fallout from Sino-US situation

There is uncertainty about the proposed China-involved construction of a nuclear power station near Bradwell in Essex in the United Kingdom, according to a minister with knowledge of the situation.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Gerry Grimstone, a minister in the Department for International Trade’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said questions hang over the proposed construction of the China-designed HPR1000 reactor.

The plant has been proposed by General Nuclear System Limited, a joint venture involving China’s State-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, or CGN, and the French state-owned energy company EDF.

Were it to proceed, it would become one of the UK’s largest-ever inward investments.

CGN and EDF are working together on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project, which involves EDF technology and CGN financial backing.

But Grimstone, a former chairman of Barclays Bank and of Standard Life, told the FT during an interview that the CGN-involved project at Bradwell is far from assured. He said the fact that CGN was blacklisted by the United States amid increasing tension between Beijing and some Western governments means its go-ahead will depend on several factors.

“As ever with these things, the question will be as to whether it’s to our mutual advantage and whether there’s sufficient safeguards,” he said. “If you read the energy white paper before Christmas, it’s by no means certain that this country is going to be building large nuclear power stations.”

The document indicates London now favors smaller projects, and is increasingly looking at alternative, green ways to produce energy.

“You have modular nuclear power stations coming forward, you have other sources of power, you have to jump a number of hurdles before you get to that decision (of building another large nuclear power station),” said Grimstone, who has been running the UK’s new Office for Investment since early last year. He added that the UK is planning to create an investment council that will comprise 40 business leaders and overseas investors which will advise the government on the best ways to attract the sort of inward investment it wants.

Grimstone told the FT that London is already talking to some of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth and pension funds about the possibility of them investing in the UK’s green energy sector.

Potential investors, he said, include the Singaporean sovereign wealth funds Temasek and GIC and government-owned pension providers in Australia and Canada.

He told the paper the British government is very interested in securing investment in low-emission projects, and cited factories that make batteries for electric cars, off shore wind farms, and carbon capture and storage plants as the sort of initiatives it wants.

With the UK set to host the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November, Grimstone added that the UK’s new National Infrastructure Bank will also be looking to invest in the same sort of green projects.