he Chinese nuclear developer behind three of the UK’s planned new nuclear power plants has warned that Brexit has cast doubt over the nuclear cooperation between China, France and Britain.
CGN Power has raised concern over the UK’s departure from a key pan-European nuclear group, Euratom, as it prepares its submission for the UK government’s rigorous assessment of China’s homegrown reactor design.
In exchange for taking a minority stake in EDF Energy’s £36bn plans to build nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell B, the UK Government has left the door open for a Chinese-designed reactor at Bradwell in Essex – despite security concerns over a Chinese company holding control of key British infrastructure.
China hopes that by gaining a foothold in the UK market, considered one of the world’s most stringent safety regimes, it will be able to grow its international nuclear presence.
But Dongshan Zheng, the senior vice president of CGN, said at an industry event that the decision to leave Euratom as part of Brexit will “create some uncertainties” for its UK plans.
“How this project will go ahead smoothly, how we will have as good a relationship as we have now – this is the first challenge,” he said.
Euratom streamlines the international movement of nuclear goods, people and services through a standard framework which governs safety standards.
Without membership, the UK’s nuclear renaissance could face delay while complicated new bilateral agreements are formed. It would strip the EU stamp of approval from China’s first own-design reactor in Western Europe.
“Certainly, the project itself will face some risks in costs, in terms of planning,” he said.
Earlier this year EDF Energy told a committee of MPs that ideally it would remain part of Euratom but if the UK does leave it is vital that the Government agrees transitional arrangements, to give the UK time to negotiate and complete new agreements.
The MPs are due to report on the UK’s energy priorities in the Brexit negotiations early next week but the findings could be undermined by the upcoming snap election which will force an overhaul of parliamentary committees this summer.