What does the new nuclear agreement announced between UK and China really mean?
PUBLISHED: 08:17 22 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:31 22 October 2015
Chinese investment in nuclear power was the centrepiece of a visit where Prime Minister David Cameron and President Xi Jinping hailed a “golden age” in the relationship between their two countries.
The long-anticipated four-page nuclear “Statement of Co-operation” moves the Somerset plan for Hinkley Point C a step closer, and with it Sizewell C and a new power station in Bradwell.
But it is non-binding and has no legal status. There are still final decisions to be made by EDF in Somerset and Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, will only confirm the price the Government will guarantee for nuclear energy when a full investment decision is signed. At £18bn, it is hard work finding the cash to build new nuclear power stations.
International or government investments appear to be only options after Centrica pulled out of nuclear new build projects in 2013.
The move has its critics, among them security sources concerned about cyber attacks.
And statements about “maximising” the economic and social benefits for local communities and the UK, and assurances it will be “safe and secure” were also designed to ally fears of going into business with the Chinese.
The importance of this agreement was reflected in the fact that it was left to the two heads of government to announce it to the world.
From Grand State Banquet at Buckingham Palace to the red carpet which was rolled out at Number 10, the VIP treatment has been laid on for Chinese President Xi.
As Chinese President Xi made clear, it is hoped this agreement could be the start of something. He knows that the country’s reputation will be on the line and there is a lot at stake.
For Mr Cameron, desperate to address our dwindling energy supplies and sign big business deals, there was much talking up of relations which he said had “improved significantly” since he first met the Chinese President eight years ago.
“The more we trade together, the more we have a stake in each others’ success and the more we understand each other, the more we can work together to confront the problems that face our world today.”
The sub-text is the hope that Chinese billions will come to the rescue of nuclear project which have so far failed to get off the ground.