China's nuclear investment beneficial to UK, says de Rivaz

23 September 2015

The head of EDF Energy has outlined the benefits of Chinese investment in the UK's nuclear industry. His comments came the day after the UK government announced up to £2 billion ($3 billion) in support for the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.

In an article published in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph on 22 September, EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz welcomed the announcement the previous day by Chancellor George Osborne during a trip to China that the UK would offer the guarantee. This is seen as an incentive to encourage China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to invest in the UK's nuclear industry.

"I accept that not everyone is persuaded that it is a good thing," de Rivaz said. However, he said he is convinced "this cooperation is an industrial opportunity with benefits reaching far beyond a single nuclear power station in Somerset."

"The benefits of Chinese investment are not just economic. Britain will also profit from Chinese experience, earned through developing similar projects in China."

Vincent de Rivaz
CEO of EDF Energy

"The economic benefits of China's investment in our new nuclear plants will be shared among businesses and workers across the country," de Rivaz said. He noted that the Hinkley Point C project will mark the "biggest inward investment in British history" with the creation of up to 25,000 jobs during the plant's construction. "Some of these jobs will be in Somerset but many more will be created across the rest of the country, with British companies on target to win contracts worth more than 60% of the value of Hinkley Point C's construction."

He added, "New nuclear projects won't just boost British industry and skills here, they will also help the UK and France compete and win in a global market."

"The benefits of Chinese investment are not just economic," de Rivaz noted. "Britain will also profit from Chinese experience, earned through developing similar projects in China."

EDF and CGN signed a global partnership agreement in November 2007 for joint investment in domestic and foreign power plants and to support the expansion of technical cooperation and joint development of nuclear technology. That agreement saw Areva agreeing to build two EPR units at Taishan, China. Taishan 1, which has been under construction since 2009, is expected to start up in 2016, while Taishan 2 is scheduled to begin operating a year later.

"Chinese expertise is being gained by building and operating new nuclear power stations on a larger scale than anywhere else in the world," de Rivaz said. "The Chinese industry has developed to the point that the country is planning to build almost one new nuclear power station a month as part of its efforts to combat climate change."

He said Chinese companies will initially participate in the Hinkley Point C project, then the construction of two more EPRs at Sizewell in Suffolk and finally the construction of new units at Bradwell in Essex. "EDF will lead the first two projects and will be partners in the Chinese-led third," de Rivaz said. "That is a win-win-win situation for the UK, China and France."

"Safety is of the utmost importance to both EDF and our Chinese partners," he stressed. He said the UK has "stringent safety and quality requirements" for reactor design, construction and operation, noting that it took four years for the EPR design to get through the country's Generic Design Assessment process. "Chinese companies will only be allowed to proceed with their technology if it passes the same scrutiny," he added.

"The future partnership is a real joining of forces - British, French and Chinese," de Rivaz said. "Building Hinkley Point C will show the real and lasting benefits from such a partnership: low carbon energy, at an affordable price, which makes a significant contribution to our economy."

EDF Energy, supported by CGN and CNNC, is expected to make a final investment decision on the Hinkley Point C project later this year. The company has letters of intent with the two Chinese companies to take 30-40% of the project between them.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News