26 July 2021
The flagship of Britain’s new nuclear power fleet is under threat as the Government prepares curbs on Chinese involvement in critical national infrastructure.
Whitehall sources admitted last night that the £23bn Hinkley Point C project underway in Somerset could be jeopardised by plans to block China General Nuclear (CGN) from future UK projects.
The Hinkley reactor, Britain’s first in a generation, is being partially bankrolled by CGN as part of a wider deal with French company EDF to replace the UK’s aging nuclear plants.
Under Government proposals which have not been officially confirmed, CGN’s involvement in subsequent planned projects, in Suffolk and Essex, would end.
Government insiders said that there are concerns this could disrupt the linked deal under which CGN is developing Hinkley, where work is already significantly advanced.
Hinkley Point C is set to supply about 7pc of the nation’s electricity from mid- 2026. However, this could be pushed back if CGN pulls out.
CGN hopes its work on Hinkley and then Sizewell C station in Suffolk will be a stepping stone to opening its own plant in Bradwell, Essex, as part of a 2015 deal championed by George Osborne, then Chancellor.
Nuclear power generated more than 17pc of the UK’s electricity in 2020 and supporters argue it will become an ever more important source of stable energy to balance out growing use of intermittent wind and solar.
However, almost all of the ageing nuclear fleet is due to shut down by the end of this decade. EDF and CGN are the only developers committed to new plants in the UK, with others put off by the huge costs, technical challenges and long development times.
The Government’s move to curb China’s role, first reported by the Financial Times, comes amid rising concern about the emerging superpower’s crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uyghur dissidents. Boris Johnson is also kicking China’s telecoms maker Huawei out of Britain’s 5G network due to security fears.
Ministers are preparing to introduce legislation to Parliament that would allow nuclear power developers to recoup costs from household bills. This could spark a significant backbench rebellion from MPs concerned about China if CGN is involved.
Industry sources also suggested that EDF would find it easier to court pension funds and other institutional investors without the political risk of a major Chinese state partner.
The White House curtailed the ability of US firms to supply CGN in August 2019, and the Trump administration warned the UK against its involvement in this country’s nuclear industry.
CGN’s work on British nuclear power dates back to 2015 when prime minister David Cameron and Chinese president Xi Jinping hailed what was meant to be the start of a “golden era” between the two nations.
The company owns about a third of Hinkley Point C and has a 20pc development phase stake in Sizewell C, with an option to participate in the construction phase. Its own reactor design for Bradwell is going through UK regulatory approval, with CGN hoping it can then export this technology more widely.
The Times reported last night that the Government is considering buying an equity stake in Sizewell C as part of its moves to replace CGN, reversing a long-standing wish to keep nuclear build off the Government balance sheet.
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond said China is a “fact of life” and warned that excluding the country would put up costs for bill payers.
Mr Hammond, seen as a key supporter of the CGN deal when he was in government, said: “It’s possible to exclude China General Nuclear, from participating in the UK as a civil nuclear market, but the government should be honest with electricity consumers about what that will mean for their bills, and taxpayers about what it will mean for the taxpayer funding.
“You can say ‘we don’t like the Chinese’, but the Chinese are the only people who have an incentive to fund their risk a project of this nature because they’re trying to produce a demonstrator, which would then allow them to sell civil nuclear reactors elsewhere in developed countries.”
Stop Sizewell C, a campaign group in Suffolk, said the move to remove CGN “throws EDF’s funding problems into even sharper relief”.
It added: “The simple fact is that Sizewell C won’t go ahead without new investors.”
The Government has been in formal negotiations with EDF over Sizewell since December. It will gain stronger powers for it to intervene in civil nuclear deals in January 2022.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “Nuclear power has an important role to play in the UK’s low-carbon energy future, as we work towards our world-leading target to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050.
“All nuclear projects in the UK are conducted under robust and independent regulation to meet the UK’s rigorous legal, regulatory and national security requirements, ensuring our interests are protected.”
CGN and EDF declined to comment.
China could quit UK nuclear projects if role threatened, experts warn Effort to remove state-owned CGN from Sizewell C said to leave Hinkley Point and Bradwell exposed Pouring concrete at Hinkley Point C. China General Nuclear is a minority investor in the power station being built by France’s EDF © EDF/Latitude Photography Share on twitter (opens new window) Share on facebook (opens new window) Share on linkedin (opens new window) Share Save Jim Pickard and Nathalie Thomas JULY 26 2021 78 Print this page China General Nuclear is likely to walk away from the Hinkley Point C power station being built in Somerset if the Chinese state-owned nuclear company is forced out of future projects in the UK, industry experts warned on Monday. The Financial Times revealed that the British government was exploring ways to remove CGN from the consortium planning to build the new £20bn Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk. Ministers are also going cold on plans by CGN to build a plant at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex using its own reactor technology. The company is already a minority investor in the 3.2 gigawatt Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which France’s EDF is building. One nuclear industry executive warned that CGN could reassess its involvement with Hinkley Point. They pointed out there were four interlinked agreements between CGN, EDF and the government dating to 2015: Hinkley Point, Sizewell, Bradwell and the pursuit of regulatory approval for China’s reactor design. “Neither EDF nor the government can assume they can just deal with Sizewell in isolation,” the executive said. “If you open one agreement then you potentially open all four. Legally, you open one part of the agreement, you run the risk of opening all parts of the agreement.” Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at University of Greenwich, said CGN’s investment in Hinkley was designed to make a profit and help secure its plant at Bradwell. With both of those objectives in jeopardy, the company could quit the UK, he warned. Twice weekly newsletter Energy is the world’s indispensable business and Energy Source is its newsletter. Every Tuesday and Thursday, direct to your inbox, Energy Source brings you essential news, forward-thinking analysis and insider intelligence. Sign up here. The Chinese company is eager to get UK regulatory approval at Bradwell for its own Hualong One HPR1000 reactor in order to help market it in other countries. The reactor design is going through the UK’s rigorous approval process, with a decision expected in the second quarter of next year. But Thomas pointed out that with Hinkley’s budget having jumped from £14bn to as much as £22.5bn, it was no longer clear whether the consortium would make a profit. “I would have thought that would put it into lossmaking territory,” he said. “They may well be very happy for an excuse to get out of it,” Thomas added. “If Bradwell is off the agenda and Hinkley Point won’t make money, why stick around?” CGN declined to comment. Ministers would prefer a situation where CGN was replaced as a minority investor in Sizewell. The change in mood at the top of government reflects the rapid cooling of relations between London and Beijing — in contrast with attempts by former prime minister David Cameron to court investment from China. Recommended The FT ViewThe editorial board Safeguarding Britain’s nuclear power future Tim Yeo, a former Tory energy minister who chairs the New Nuclear Watch Institute, an industry-supported think-tank, said concerns about Chinese involvement in the UK nuclear power sector had been overstated. Any disruption or interference in its operations would close down all export opportunities elsewhere for CGN, he argued. “The notion that China would arbitrarily close down a plant which they had built in UK for some geopolitical reason is absurd,” he said. “They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by disrupting the supply of electricity from a nuclear plant which they had built here.” Alison Downes, of Stop Sizewell C, a pressure group, said the government’s position threw EDF’s funding problems for the plant into sharper relief: “The simple fact is that Sizewell C won’t go ahead without new investors.”
UK’s ageing reactors bring nuclear question to a head Early closure leaves gap in low-carbon generation as Britain seeks to cut emissions and secure energy supply Somerset’s Hinkley Point C plant is the UK’s only new nuclear power plant under construction © PA Share on twitter (opens new window) Share on facebook (opens new window) Share on linkedin (opens new window) Share Save Nathalie Thomas, Energy Correspondent JULY 14 2021 33 Print this page A remote area on England’s east coast, halfway between the seaside towns of Felixstowe and Lowestoft, is set to become the centre of debate about Britain’s future energy security. UK ministers are aiming to bring forward legislation in the autumn to support the financing of a 3.2 gigawatt nuclear power station in Sizewell, East Suffolk, which could generate electricity for 6m households. Ministers have been in formal negotiations with EDF about how to fund the proposed £20bn Sizewell C plant since December, and the government and the French state-backed utility have had discussions about replacing Britain’s ageing nuclear reactors for years. However, the question of whether Britain should build more large plants took on added urgency last month, when EDF closed the 1.1GW Dungeness B station in Kent seven years early. It also raised the prospect that other reactors may also be decommissioned ahead of schedule, owing to problems with their graphite cores. Dungeness B was one of eight nuclear power stations built in the UK between the late-1960s and mid-1990s and six more of these are due to retire before the end of 2030. Pylons carry electricity away from Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent © PA Some energy experts say this will leave a gap in Britain’s supplies of low-carbon electricity as the UK government strives to meet its 2050 “net zero” emissions target. According to the government’s climate advisers, Britain’s electricity system needs to be decarbonised by 2035 to reach that 2050 goal. Only one replacement plant, the 3.2GW Hinkley Point C in Somerset, is currently under construction after the UK government failed to reach agreement in 2019 with Japan’s Hitachi over financing a new plant in north Wales. Toshiba also scrapped plans in 2018 for a new nuclear station in Cumbria. “The UK has made great strides in decarbonising its power sector in recent years but the forthcoming retirements of old nuclear stations could halt that progress, or even send it into reverse,” warns Simon Virley, lead energy partner at KPMG UK, who was the government’s director-general for energy markets and infrastructure between 2009 and 2015. Nuclear opponents dismiss these fears, though — arguing that several existing reactors had already been offline in recent years, and emissions still fell. For example, Dungeness B had not operated since September 2018 as EDF tried to solve problems that included corrosion in its pipework. “If there was [a capacity issue], what good is Sizewell going to do given it won’t come on line until 2034 according to EDF?” asks Stephen Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich. Nuclear sceptics have long argued that money would be better spent on clean energy technologies, such as offshore wind, and reducing electricity demand through measures including insulation. Funding is likely to be key to whether any new plants go ahead. Financing for the proposed £20bn nuclear power station in Sizewell is yet to be confirmed © EDF Energy Hitachi decided its Wylfa Newydd scheme in Wales posed too big a commercial risk even though the UK government offered to take a one-third equity stake. Now, EDF’s hopes for Sizewell C rest on an agreement that involves a “regulated asset base” model, a mechanism that has never before been used for nuclear but is common in other infrastructure, including the Thames Tideway “super sewer” in London. Under a RAB model, consumers would pay towards a new plant through their energy bills long before any electricity is generated. Opponents of the model warn that consumers would also be on the hook for cost overruns. But nuclear executives insist the model would help to attract low-risk investors, such as pension funds, and cut the cost of capital of a new plant — a significant proportion of the budget. They suggest an agreement over financing Sizewell C could involve the UK government and EDF taking minority stakes to provide confidence to private investors, although the campaign group Stop Sizewell C has questioned how many pension funds are willing to back nuclear, given that several have expressed reservations. EDF Energy, the French utility’s UK division, says “there are plenty of investors . . . who have indicated their interest in financing Sizewell C” and Simone Rossi, its chief executive, told a Reuters event last month that legislation was “an essential prerequisite”. Still, others remain privately sceptical given a consultation on a RAB model was launched two years ago with little progress since. Ministers have also acknowledged a RAB-financed nuclear plant could end up on the government balance sheet. Questions also remain over what role Chinese state-backed CGN will play in Sizewell C. It has a 20 per cent share during the development phase, but some backbench MPs have questioned China’s involvement in critical UK infrastructure. CGN declined to comment. Twice weekly newsletter Energy is the world’s indispensable business and Energy Source is its newsletter. Every Tuesday and Thursday, direct to your inbox, Energy Source brings you essential news, forward-thinking analysis and insider intelligence. Sign up here. The UK business department says it “is continuing to explore” a RAB funding model “alongside other delivery models”. Francis Livens, a professor at Manchester University’s Dalton Nuclear Institute, says there is a “problem of objectivity” in the debate around nuclear, as well as other energy technologies. A lot of “stereotypical stuff” such as electricity supply gaps dominate the debate, he argues — and rarely are technologies assessed for their overall potential to replace fossil fuels, such as also providing heat and producing hydrogen. Says Livens: “I’m not sure any of these energy technologies [including wind and solar] are being properly evaluated using a whole systems approach.”
Campaigners are going on the offensive against plans for two new nuclear reactors on the Suffolk coast – saying “it’s not too late to Stop Sizewell C”.
The new advertising campaign is launched today by Stop Sizewell C, part of a fight-back to highlight the reasons it claims why the £20billion power project should be opposed.
The campaign will include a touring digital “Advan” visiting tourism and leisure hotspots on the Suffolk coast between 10am and 6pm with striking and colourful imagery by award-winning advertising creative Antony Easton and featuring the voices of residents and campaigners, including Bill Nighy, Diana Quick, Bill Turnbull and Charlie Haylock.
New roadside boards will be on display along the B1122 in Theberton and Middleton, a flag is flying from the tower of Theberton Church, and leaflets will be delivered to 17,500 households this week and distributed via local hospitality outlets and rural businesses.
Alison Downes, of Stop Sizewell C, said the campaign was a wake-up call for everyone who thinks Sizewell C is a done deal.
She said: “It doesn’t have planning consent and there is no sign of guaranteed funding; indeed increasing numbers of UK asset managers don’t plan on investing.”
She added that while Sizewell B is forced to stay shut for repairs, renewables are delivering faster and cheaper energy, proving there is a better alternative to Sizewell C, one that is more affordable, greener and better.
Suffolk historian, author and dialect specialist Charlie Haylock, said: “My late father grew up around Leiston and It breaks my heart to think of the damage that building Sizewell C’s two huge nuclear reactors would do to this most beautiful and wildlife-rich part of the country.”
Dr Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams plc, said: “We’re pleased to support this campaign as Adnams believes the impacts of Sizewell C would be considerable and we are keen to make sure they are understood by everyone who knows and loves this area.”
Thorpeness resident Antony Easton put together the strategy with Stop Sizewell C based around the concept that there are more reasons to oppose Sizewell C than to support it.
He said: “That’s why the multi-page mail drop concertina idea was created, it presents several reasonable arguments at once. It’s not a black and white issue but it doesn’t take much unpicking to see why, one, it should take place in such a vulnerable and infrastructurally weak area and two, that it should take place at all.”
EDF Energy says Sizewell C is vital for the country’s future energy needs but would form part of a mix of different types of power generation. Its plans are currently going through the examination stage of a Development Consent Order application and the company is currently in discussions with government over funding options.
Press Release, 31 May 2021
Stop Sizewell C fights back against EDF propaganda with new ad campaign – “it’s not too late to Stop Sizewell C”
[Suffolk] Stop Sizewell C has today (31 May) launched a new advertising campaign] with the core message that it is not too late to stop the giant nuclear power station, and highlighting the multiple reasons why it should be opposed. The campaign will include a touring digital “Advan” visiting tourism and leisure hotspots on the Suffolk coast between 10am and 6pm. [1. The striking and colourful ad creatives are the work of Antony Easton, an award-winning advertising creative whilst at Saatchi & Saatchi in the 90s, while the campaign video features the voices of residents and campaigners, including Bill Nighy, Diana Quick, Bill Turnbull and Charlie Haylock.
The campaign, which is entirely funded by local people and Stop Sizewell C supporters, will simultaneously launch online on Stop Sizewell C’s social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube  – and website, www.stopsizewellc.org. In addition, new roadside boards are on display along the B1122 in Theberton and Middleton and a flag is flying from the tower of Theberton Church. Concertina leaflets will be delivered to 17,500 households this week and distributed via local hospitality outlets and rural businesses. Campaign posters are on display in Adnams pubs and beer mats are planned, and an advertisement has been placed in today’s East Anglian Daily Times.
Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said “This is a wake up call for everyone who believes EDF’s relentless propaganda and thinks Sizewell C is a done deal. It doesn’t have planning consent and there is no sign of guaranteed funding; indeed increasing numbers of UK asset managers don’t plan on investing.  While Sizewell B is forced to stay shut over recently discovered safety issues,  renewables are delivering faster and cheaper, proving there is a better alternative to Sizewell C, one that is more affordable, greener and better overall for this beautiful part of our country.” 
Suffolk historian, author and dialect specialist Charlie Haylock, who is with the roadshow this morning said “My late father grew up around Leiston and It breaks my heart to think of the damage that building Sizewell C’s two huge nuclear reactors would do to this most beautiful and wildlife-rich part of the country. The initials EDF should stand for Enormous Dangerous Folly, and if Sizewell C did go ahead ‘an Expensive Dangerous Fiasco’. I’ve thrown my full support behind the Stop Sizewell C campaign to help raise awareness of this threat, and show people it’s not too late to make a difference.”
Dr Andy Wood, CEO of Adnams plc said: “We’re pleased to support this campaign as Adnams believes the impacts of Sizewell C would be considerable and we are keen to make sure they are understood by everyone who knows and loves this area.”
Thorpeness resident Antony Easton put together the strategy with Stop Sizewell C based around the concept that there are more reasons to oppose Sizewell C than to support it. “That’s why the multi-page mail drop concertina idea was created, it presents several reasonable arguments at once. It’s not a black and white issue but it doesn’t take much unpicking to see why, one, it should take place in such a vulnerable and infrastructurally weak area and two, that it should take place at all.”
“EDF’s behaviour suggests Sizewell C is a fait accomplis but the government has yet to sanction it and we feel that – as David to their Goliath – we need to be heard. I felt it was important to engage local opinion, to give people the courage and some arguments to be able to say ‘no’. We put the creatives together for nothing and the distribution is being funded by a growing number of concerned individuals. Volunteering to help was the least I could do.”
“The look of the ads was inspired by the 1970s ‘Nuclear Energy? No Thanks’ campaign. It stands out because the copy is confrontational and the colours are vivid and in your face.”
Stop Sizewell C is additionally grateful to Toby Andersen for audio and Steve Sutton for editing work on this campaign.
- Provisional Schedule/Locations. Call 07711 843884 for our exact location.
Aldeburgh, 10.30 – 11.45am; Seafront, near the Moot Hall.
Sizewell, 12 noon – 1pm; Beach car park.
Thorpeness 1pm – 1.45; Call Alison 07711 843884 for exact location
Dunwich 2.45 – 3.30pm; Beach carpark
Walberswick 4 – 4.45pm; Beach carpark
Southwold 5 – 6pm. High street opposite the Post Office.
In addition the Advan will drive up the A12 from Ipswich, through Snape, Leiston, Saxmundham, Kelsale, Yoxford, Theberton, Middleton, Westleton and Blythburgh.
- See @StopSizewellC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube
- It has been calculated that 30GW of offshore wind could be delivered by 2030 at a cost of £50bn. This is the equivalent of nine Sizewell C’s for only two and half times the money. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/powering-all-uk-homes-via-offshore-wind-by-2030-would-cost-50bn
A businessman has changed his mind about building a new nuclear power plant at Leiston — branding the plan “bad for Suffolk”.
Saxmundham-based William Kendall — a past high sheriff of Suffolk and an organic farmer — said he was in favour of the project until about two years ago.
He was shown around EDF’s Sizewell B plant while he was high sheriff and was impressed with how it was operated, he said.
But after he visited a Sizewell C roadshow two years ago and found friends and neighbours visibly upset by the plans and the potential disruption they would cause, he decided to take a deeper look.
“I am an environmentalist and was led to believe that the only way we can tackle climate change fast enough is to build some interim nuclear energy capacity,” said Mr Kendall.
The entrepreneur has been involved in various business projects over many years. He was previously behind well-known food brands such as Green and Black’s organic chocolate and Covent Garden Soup before selling up, and is currently a director of online grocer Farmdrop and a trustee of the Grosvenor Estate, which is owned by the Grosvenor family.
“I had misgivings. I took my then 17-year-old daughter to Chernobyl on holiday some years ago to look at the wildlife but you can’t fail to see the downsides of nuclear energy when you are there,” he explained.
“We hope it is much safer here but there are still no proposals to deal with the waste that will be highly toxic for thousands of years, other than to bury it in our fast-eroding coastline.”
EDF insist the project will be good for both the environment and the local economy providing opportunities for people for many years.
But Mr Kendall said he listened to both sides of the argument and looked again at the plans and talked to local people and businesses, as well as groups such as Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the National Trust and RSPB, he said.
“I am now completely convinced that Sizewell C will be bad for Suffolk. It will destroy many more jobs than it creates. I haven’t spoken to any employers who live here who think it is good idea for the area once they have fully understood the plans, which is why opposition is growing as we all finally wake up to what is proposed,” he said.
“I do know a few employers who support the plan because they think it happens to suit their business but they can’t explain to me why it is good for the economy and community as a whole. We should make decisions around the best interests of the whole not just a few.”
The main reason he had heard in favour of the scheme was new jobs — but he argued it could have an adverse effect on existing jobs and businesses.
The area had high employment and while there were problems attracting higher paid posts, things were improving, he claimed.
“We need some long term interventions to help those families who struggle to acquire the right skills and means to get on the employment ladder and we need to encourage better training for the future. All that said our local economy is doing pretty well,” he said.
“Parts of it are booming. The tourist industry has taken a hit because of Covid-19 but is expecting a big surge this summer and I see investment in higher standards and more facilities in this sector wherever I go.”
Many farms in his area had tourism sidelines and there was a construction boom — with recruitment the main problem, he said.
“They are desperate and this is beginning to impact on the investment plans for businesses in other sectors. I can think of several things we have put on hold simply because we know we won’t find suitable contractors any time soon.
“EDF talks about investing in skills and I am sure it would for the few people it actually needs once the power station is built but we know that they will try to recruit anyone they can with any necessary skills when it comes to building the power station. Of course the vast majority of workers will be brought in from elsewhere.”
He feared the project would have knock-on effects for other employers’ developments plans which would be halted “for nearly a decade”.
A huge drop in the cost of alternative energy sources also weakened the practical argument for nuclear, he argued.
“There are new breakthroughs every day. Meanwhile the cost of old nuclear just seems to go up and up,” he said.
If government advisers continued to argue one more nuclear plant was needed in the medium term, it should go where employment is truly needed, he said.
The local economy had changed out of all recognition from the days when it was earmarked for its first nuclear station, he pointed out.
“There are parts of Britain, on our west coast like Cumbria and Anglesey, where things aren’t going nearly so well and where the local people apparently do want another nuclear power station. If it is really true that we do need one more and the United Kingdom really thinks it is worth the huge cost then they should get the investment.”
He admitted it had taken him two years to get his “head straight” on the complicated issue, but had been lucky to meet many experts and Whitehall civil servants and government ministers.
“We live in an age where we have to be for or against things when debates are much more complicated. I hate that. There may be a few quite good reasons to build Sizewell C but I have found many more why we shouldn’t. That is why I am opposed to it now.”
A spokeswoman for Sizewell C said nuclear power stations have been delivering reliable electricity and providing long-term rewarding employment in Suffolk for decades and plans for Sizewell C will mean that can continue.
“In the fight against climate change we need more nuclear and renewable generation to replace fossil fuels and those low carbon stations reaching the end of operation,” she said.
“Sizewell C is supported by business organisations across the region. The station will create thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships and a boost in a range of skills. We have plans in place that will ensure local people can make the most of the opportunities that will become available.”