Chinese President Xi Jinping sealed a multi-billion dollar deal to finance nuclear power stations in Britain, crowning a visit that Prime Minister David Cameron hopes will unleash a wave of investment from the world’s second largest economy.
After a day of pomp alongside Queen Elizabeth, Communist Party General Secretary Xi on Wednesday met with Cameron in his Downing Street residence where the visit’s biggest deal so far — to invest in nuclear plants — was due to be announced.
In the first major Chinese investment in a Western nuclear facility, China’s General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) will take a one-third stake in the planned 18 billion pound ($28 billion) Hinkley Point nuclear plant owned by France’s EDF .
State-owned CGN will also take a two-thirds stake in the Bradwell nuclear plant east of London, where it plans to build a Chinese-designed reactor, and a one-fifth stake in a project for Areva-designed reactors at the Sizewell plant.
The Chinese investment, agreed in principle in October 2013, breathes life into a British plan to replace around a quarter of its electricity generating capacity over the next decade and offers China a way to showcase its nuclear technology as part of its pitch as a global exporter of quality infrastructure.
No overall figure was immediately given for the Chinese nuclear investment. Britain has said 30 billion pounds of contracts would be clinched during the trip.
The deal brings Britain’s first new nuclear plant since 1995 a step closer and is also a boost for EDF, which has been hit by billions of euros of cost overruns and years of delays with two of its other European nuclear projects in Finland and France.
The prospect of China, which Western spymasters say sponsors hacking of global companies, helping to build a nuclear plant in Britain and being involved in running others has stoked security concerns in Britain.
Steve Hilton, a former policy adviser to David Cameron, told the BBC that Britain should impose sanctions on China for political oppression and cyber attacks instead of rolling out the red carpet.
“This is one of the worst national humiliations we’ve seen since we went cap in hand to the IMF in the 1970s,” said Hilton, who left Downing Street in 2012, referring to the 1976 crisis during which Britain was forced to ask for a loan from the International Monetary Fund.