BEIJING (Reuters) – Senior Chinese and British energy officials have met to discuss the Hinkley Point nuclear project after the British government’s surprise decision to delay the $24 billion (18.32 billion pounds) plan upset China, one of the backers of the scheme.
Top Chinese energy official Nur Bekri met Lucy Neville-Rolfe, British minister of state for energy, on August 25 in Beijing to discuss the plan to build Britain’s first new nuclear plant in decades, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) said on its website on Monday.
The two sides also talked about a clean energy partnership, according to the NEA, which gave no details. Bekri is head of the NEA.
China cautioned Britain against closing the door to Chinese money and said relations were at a crucial juncture after new Prime Minister Theresa May delayed signing off on the Hinkley Point project in July.
Beijing’s ambassador to London said in August that Britain could face power shortages unless May approved the Franco-Chinese deal.
The comments signaled deep frustration in Beijing at the delay, May’s most striking intervention since winning power after Britain’s June 23 referendum to leave the European Union.
May was concerned about the security implications of the planned Chinese investment in the plant, a former colleague and a source said.
Under plans drawn up by former Prime Minister David Cameron, French utility EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corp would fund the cost of building two Areva European Pressurized Water Reactors at the Hinkley C nuclear plant in Somerset, southern England.
Hinkley is seen as the front runner to closer ties with China on nuclear issues, paving the way for tens of billions of dollars of investment and another two nuclear power plants with Chinese involvement.
May sought to reassure Chinese leaders, telling them in a letter that Britain wanted to strengthen trade and business ties.
The British government says it will make a final decision on Hinkley Point in the early autumn.
(Reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Adrian Croft)