China involvement in UK nuclear not a security risk says trade chief

China’s investments in the UK’s nuclear energy sector do not pose a national security risk, according to Tom Greatrex, CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association.

Last month the UK said it was “absolutely committed” to boosting nuclear power as a key energy source, but national security is paramount as Chinese investment in new plants raises concerns, the minister in charge of the sector said.

Now, in comments made to City AM, Greatex said he did not see any issues with state-backed China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) owning a one-third stake in under-construction power plant Hinkley Point C.

“It doesn’t necessarily follow that involvement from China would create security concerns,” he said.

However, Greatex also acknowledged that any geopolitical issues were “way above my pay grade.”

In his view, Chinese companies owning stakes in projects were only a problem if they had strategic roles in power plants.

“It [CGN] is still a significant but minority shareholder in Hinkley Point C, but there’s no Chinese technology,” Greatrex explained.

Hinkley Point C’s majority owner is the French energy giant EDF, which will operate the power station based on a European pressurised reactor design.

Similar reactors are already installed at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in the Guangdong province of China – which is also co-owned by CGN and EDF.

However, the Taishan plant has been plagued with issues since construction, with one of its units shut down for over a year of repairs fix issues with fuel rod cladding and outages before becoming online again.

CGN workers are currently helping to oversee the installation of both reactors at the 3.2GW Hinkley Point C plant, which will power six million homes when it is finally completed in 2028 at a cost of £33 billion.

Greatrex did not believe this presented “any national security concerns,” and instead considered their presence to be “a good thing,” as CGN would help with bringing the reactor design into operation in the UK.

The nuclear energy sector was ultimately required to work within the conditions established by government, he argued.