UK nuclear link a “step up” for China

Renewed reports of potential Chinese investment in the UK’s nuclear industry could, say observers, bolster China’s global nuclear exports.

The UK has been struggling to get its plans to build new nuclear power stations up and running, with two major energy companies, RWE and E.On, pulling out of plans to build new reactors.

Reports of Chinese investment will help keep the current bidding process for new build competitive, professor Steve Thomas, of Greenwich University, told chinadialogue.  

For China though, the deal would be a potential game-changer in terms of opening up new markets in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle-East to its nuclear expertise.

China is already leading the world on new nuclear, with 26 reactors under construction, representing 39% of global new build. But its nuclear export activity remains limited. 

It has supplied equipment for reactors in Pakistan and is in talks with Turkey, South Africa and Saudi Arabia over the supply of nuclear technology. Any potential deal with the UK, while in partnership with the French-owned Areva, would be a “step up for China”, say observers.

“Building a reactor in Pakistan is one thing but building in a OECD country, which will mean meeting more defined safety and environmental standards, is very different,” Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow at London-based Chatham House, told chinadialogue.

This article is translated and published here as part of our Green Growth project, a collaboration between chinadialogue and The Energy Foundation.

Tom Levitt, chinadialogue