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Thursday, September 15, 2016, 17:40

UK's May approves Chinese-invested Hinkley Point nuclear station

By Chris Peterson in London

UK's May approves Chinese-invested Hinkley Point nuclear station
An undated handout image released by EDF Energy in London on July 28, 2016, shows a computer generated image (CGI) of the French energy producer's proposed two nuclear reactors, Hinkely Point C (HPC), at their Hinkley Point power plant in south-west England. (HO / EDF ENG ERY / AFP)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May paved the way for improved relations with China by approving the construction of the controversial nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, to be built using French technology with Chinese investment.

China will invest 6 billion pounds (US$7.92 billion) in the 18 billion pound project. Conditions of the investment include Chinese technology being used at a new plant at Bradwell-on-Sea in eastern England, and Chinese investment at another plant at Sizewell, on Britain's east coast.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the approval is in the interest of all parties.

China General Nuclear Corp said in a statement: "We are delighted that the British government has decided to proceed with the first nuclear power station for a generation. We are now able to move forward and deliver much-needed nuclear capacity at Hinkley Point, Sizewell and Bradwell, with our strategic partner, EDF."

Shortly after taking office in July, May announced that she would freeze the project until she had reviewed it, prompting concerns that refusal to approve the construction would damage relations with China. May's predecessor, David Cameron, had backed the project.

The United Kingdom's government said it had addressed security concerns with what it called significant safeguards, including a bar on EDF Energy selling its stake unless it had the approval of UK ministers. The safeguards would also apply to future projects.

EDF said the agreement was the culmination of 10 years of planning and preparation.

"EDF intends to sign agreements with the UK government, its Chinese partner CGN and supply chain partners at the earliest opportunity," it said.

"EDF Energy has worked with its Chinese partner CGN for 30 years. Their skill and experience will bring significant benefits to the HPC project," it added.

Analysts said the go-ahead for Hinkley also soothed fears that a rejection of the project might have a negative effect on planned Chinese investment of 40 billion pounds in Britain

China was also eager for the project to go forward because Bradwell would mark the first use of Chinese nuclear technology in a developed economy, necessitating approval by British nuclear standards, which would be vital for further international orders.

Cecily Liu and Lyu Chang contributed to this story.

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