British Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to allow China to help design and build two nuclear power plants in the UK have shocked some experts, who fear it poses a threat to national security, while government officials defended them saying Britain needs the inward investment so that it is not left behind, RT reports.
Osborne hopes to finalize the multi-billion-pound deals next week during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain. If approved, Chinese state-owned companies could design and build a reactor using their own technology at Bradwell on the Essex coast.
The nuclear projects could bring £100 billion (US$155 billion) worth of Chinese investment into Britain over the next decade.
Security sources say UK should not rush into the deal which will give China access to Britain’s energy infrastructure. Such a move, they argue, could enable China to gain control of the nuclear power plant if an international dispute occurs.
“There is a big division between the money men and the security side,” a security source told the Times newspaper without revealing the identity as the person is not authorised to talk on such subjects. “The Treasury is in the lead and it isn’t listening to anyone — they see China as an opportunity, but we see the threat.”
Such apprehensions do not bother Osborne.
“We get the power station built, it saves money for the British taxpayer, and it produces a good source of low carbon energy,” he said during a recent trip to China. “Whatever the headlines, regardless of the challenges, we shouldn’t be running away from China.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change defended the projects.
“The UK has robust regulations for the nuclear industry … our independent regulator is satisfied that the reactor for Hinkley is safe and secure,” it said.
“China is a huge economic force; Britain needs the inward investment. This is happening whether we like it or not and the key question is how we engage with it,” said Rafaello Pantucci of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
In an op-ed piece published in the Evening Standard Thursday, former Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable argued the UK must enter trade deals with China in order to increase exports and attract inward investment.
Government advisor Paul Dorfman of University College London’s Energy Institute disagreed.
“No one else in Europe would cut this deal. America won’t dream of letting China have such a part in its critical national infrastructure,” he said.