A landmark agreement on increased nuclear co-operation between the UK and China is likely to be concluded next month, when President Xi Jinping visits London. In preparation, last week Chancellor George Osborne went to Beijing and announced that the British government will provide a £2 billion underwrite for Chinese investment in the proposed EPR at Hinkley C power station.
Weinberg Next Nuclear does not think that an EPR should be built – at Hinkley C or anywhere else – for reasons explained in our last blog. However, in return for the funding, the UK-China agreement is also expected to open the door for two Chinese state companies, China General Nuclear and China National Nuclear Corporation, to build a new nuclear power station at Bradwell in Essex. Weinberg Next Nuclear asked the Department for Energy and Climate Change what type of reactor this would be but they were unable to enlighten us further. However, some contacts have suggested that it is likely to be a Chinese version of the AP1000.
If this is correct, it does represent some progress. The AP1000 is not an advanced nuclear reactor but it is a superior design compared with the EPR. Nugen, a consortium between Toshiba and ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez), plans to build an AP1000 at Moorside, Cumbria. Another AP1000 would be a welcome addition to the UK’s generating capacity – and has much more chance of being built on time and on budget than an EPR does.