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China enters UK nuclear market

China General Nuclear Power Group joins in deal to build first nuclear power plant in UK since 1995

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There is still a large amount of opposition to the development of a new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK (Image by Adrian Arbib)

China has joined a project to build the first new nuclear power plant in a generation in the UK.
 
The French energy company EDF has agreed a deal with the UK government, guaranteeing it almost double the current market price for the electricity it generates. By some reports the deal could be worth around £80bn in guaranteed revenues.
 
The company will be joined in the deal by China General Nuclear Power Group - a state-owned company accounting for more than half China's nuclear power sector. 
 
After a relatively late entry into the civil nuclear industry in 1985, China now has a chance to demonstrate its expertise in a major western market in the UK. 
 
However, critics have already expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the Chinese nuclear industry. Others have previously doubted China's ability to take such a leading role in the global nuclear industry.
 
Inside China, there is real concern about the rush to build a world-leading nuclear industry in the country. Nuclear expert He Zuoxiu, a researcher at the the CAS Institute of Theoretical Physics, said China was heading for a nuclear accident if it continued with its current construction plans.
 
Environmental groups in the UK believe the deal will displace investment in renewables. 
 
"It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills, via a strike price that’s understood to be nearly double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner, technologies that are dropping dramatically in price," said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven.

"With companies like Dong Energy now saying the price of offshore wind will drop so much it will be on par with nuclear by the 2020s, there is no rationale for allowing this plant to proceed."
 
There is also concern about the lack of a plan to deal with radioactive waste -  the only UK region showing a willingness to host a long-term waste disposal site has recently pulled out of the project.

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