Britain’s Chinese partner in the Hinkley Point power station deal is facing nuclear espionage charges in the United States. China General Nuclear Power (CGN), a state-owned energy giant, is accused of leading a conspiracy to steal American power industry secrets to speed up the development and production of Chinese reactor technology. Szuhsiung Ho, a senior adviser to CGN, is due in court next week accused of recruiting American experts to obtain sensitive nuclear technology for China in a plot that threatened US security. The case follows an investigation by the FBI and is being prosecuted by the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. The allegations raise the prospect that China could one day build a nuclear power plant in Britain using stolen American technology. The claims will also heighten concerns over the Hinkley Point deal with China, which was approved by David Cameron but has been stalled by Theresa May amid fears about involving the communist power in a key sector of national infrastructure. A decision on the £18 billion project in Somerset, designed to supply 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity, is expected in the autumn. Paul Dorfman, of the energy institute at University College London, said: “This extraordinary case demonstrates that concerns over involving China in UK critical nuclear infrastructure are clear and present. So it may well be in our own best interest not to allow CGN, or any other Chinese nuclear state entity, access to our key nuclear infrastructure and markets.”
Times 11th Aug 2016 read more »
China is in a hurry. Theresa May, the prime minister, is being urged by Beijing to come to a quick decision on the Hinkley Point nuclear project. The Chinese ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, warns that bilateral ties have reached a “historical juncture”. Lord Mandelson, in his role as president of the Great Britain-China Centre, says Mrs May should give the go-ahead to the nuclear deal in the next few weeks. The reason for this pressure is plain: the Chinese leadership fears losing face at the G20 summit in Beijing next month if Europeans join the United States in openly questioning the security of its investments abroad. Mrs May should not cave in. The Hinkley Point reactor is a mammoth project with the potential to create mammoth problems. As the head of a new government she has a duty to consider carefully how the economics of the power station have changed; the costs of building have risen steeply while wholesale energy prices have dropped. She should be concerned too about the ability of EDF, the French utility company, to deliver the plant on time and on budget. And then there is the geopolitical question of how much influence China should be given in a strategic industry. The United States in particular has warned from the beginning of the Cameron government’s opening to China that Britain was boxing itself into a corner. It disapproved of Britain joining up for the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, arguing that it would encourage others to team up with a Beijing rival to the World Bank. The US is particularly vigilant, using its Committee on Foreign Investment as an effective watchdog. This year it blocked an attempt by an electronics company to sell its lighting business to a Chinese-steered consortium. When the committee started to look into a Chinese investment in Western Digital, the Chinese withdrew.
Times 11th Aug 2016 read more »
The Chinese company with a major stake in the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station has been charged by the US government over nuclear espionage, according to the US justice department. In a 17-page indictment, the US government said nuclear engineer Allen Ho, employed by the China General Nuclear Power Company, and the company itself had unlawfully conspired to develop nuclear material in China without US approval and “with the intent to secure an advantage to the People’s Republic of China”.
Guardian 11th Aug 2016 read more »
Telegraph 11th Aug 2016 read more »
Energy Voice 11th Aug 2016 read more »
The U.K.’s former European trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said Britain should deepen its economic ties with China after leaving the European Union, calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to approve a deal to build the country’s first new nuclear plant in three decades using Chinese investment. The U.K. needs to show the world it is still committed to making major investments even after leaving the EU, Victor Gao, chairman of the China Energy Security Institute, said on BBC radio. “My concern is that if the Hinkley transaction is not handled properly it may send the message to China and other parts of the world that Britain is not a reliable partner for major transactions. I hope Britain will eventually come out of this major hiccup shining as it did before.” Mandelson said China is a “prized trading partner,” and it wouldn’t be in its economic interests to act irresponsibly in its U.K. nuclear investments “because their whole future economic growth depends on them securing and sustaining contracts internationally like this one.”
Bloomberg 10th Aug 2016 read more »
Peter Mandelson, the former business secretary, has urged the government to go ahead with the controversial, Chinese-backed Hinkley Point nuclear project, saying that after Brexit “we can’t be too fussy about who we do trade with”. His intervention in the debate comes after China expressed apparent annoyance at a delay ordered by Theresa May, whose chief of staff last October wrote about how security experts were worried about giving the Chinese a role in Britain’s energy security. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mandelson, whose post-politics jobs include the presidency of the Great Britain China Centre said he was not surprised that security agencies had made such conclusions, since “that’s their job”. But he added: “The government has to consider China’s motivation for wanting to finance projects like this and, in my view and I guess in their view too, they judge that it would be commercial global suicide for China if they were to invest on the one hand and then try to mess around with other countries security on the next. “I mean, nobody would trust China ever again; nobody would want to do business with Chinese investors ever again. The truth is that China would have far, far too much to lose if it were to start compromising other countries’ national security.”
Guardian 10th Aug 2016 read more »
Simon Jenkins: While David Cameron carouses with his ennobled chums, May has to cleanse the Augean stables he left behind. Top of the manure pile is the deal with China and France on Hinkley Point. To May’s credit, she instantly did the right thing. She cancelled the ceremony for signing the contract. An empty marquee and some stale champagne were better than 30 years of lunacy. An embarrassed Foreign Office and a furious French quango were certainly better than the worst procurement deal in British history. But what now, when Project Pain says that Britain post-Brexit must kowtow to the Chinese more than ever? Businessmen will soon be lost in the turbulent seas of world trade. Surely Hinkley and China were to be their life rafts. Like all vanity projects born of globe-trotting diplomacy rather than hard commerce, Hinkley has become a sacrificial symbol of Britain’s desperation to “punch above its weight”. China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming,admitted as much in the Financial Times. He wrote not of energy economics but of “mutual trust”, of relations “at a crucial historical juncture” and of Britain as “a country open to foreign investors”. He forbore to mention Brexit. He merely implied that May was in a bad spot just now, and she had better sign Hinkley or be sorry.
Guardian 11th Aug 2016 read more »
Letter Dave Lowry: The article by Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK is both important and disturbing. It is important because it contains a veiled threat at the end of his article, with the unstated hint that unless this continues to China’s satisfaction, other financial, investment and business co-operation could be impacted. It is disturbing because the ambassador makes a number of unsupported assertions in regard to nuclear safety in China and nuclear safety and security regulation in the UK. Both are open to challenge. On regulatory problems, Mr Liu asserts: “The UK has a state of the art supervision regime and legal system.” However, at a meeting in Manchester last October, executives from the UK nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) revealed to representatives from environmental stakeholder groups that they now have to encourage the industry’s economic growth in addition to promoting safety. But to be independent and effective, surely the ONR needs to stand up to government pressure to act as an arm of the nuclear cheerleaders at the Treasury, and carry on implementing the robust UK nuclear safety rules. Nuclear industry regulation is totally unsuitable to the Business Department’s misguided crusade to cut red tape in regulations. During the Manchester meeting, the ONR seemed to be dangerously edging towards the corporate financial interests of the nuclear industry rather than the public interests of ensuring national nuclear safety.
FT 11th Aug 2016 read more »
Whatever China says, we need to dump Hinkley Point. There are some critics of China’s human-rights record who would not want Britain to do business with Beijing at any price: a respectable, but extreme position. If we refused to trade with any country with a less-than-perfect human rights record, our imports would be restricted to Norwegian cheese — and even that would be questioned by anti-whaling protesters. What matters is that Chinese human rights are moving in the right direction, as has the whole country since its economy opened up to the West in the 1990s. But that doesn’t mean it is right to fling open the doors to Chinese money as if the country were a western-style democracy. China is a dubious ally. Just as the Ministry of Defence needs to war-game against Russia, the government now feels compelled to protect Britain from a Chinese cyber-attack on Britain’s nuclear components. As Home Secretary, Theresa May will have visited GCHQ and seen the large computer map showing cyber attacks as they happen. She has probably met the team tasked with protecting our nuclear plants and other vital infrastructure from possible Chinese hacking. And she may have found it odd that the Treasury had a unit dedicated to encouraging the Chinese to help run our nuclear programme. Security issues aside, the whole Hinkley Point project could end up being a disaster for Britain. There is the serious question as to whether EDF, the French state energy company which would lead the project, can deliver the power station Britain needs. The most serious point is economic: how can May justify the absurdly generous energy price agreed with EDF of £92.50 per MWh (more than double the current price) for 35 years? The size of the taxpayer subsidy for the project has quadrupled to £60 billion since the deal was signed. She would be proceeding with the costliest electricity scheme ever invented.
Spectator 11th Aug 2016 read more »
The future of nuclear power generation in Europe, North America and most of the developed world is being decided on an English coastal headland called Hinkley Point. Sadly, for the U.K., this is no great British engineering breakthrough; the technology of the new nuclear reactors is French and a third of the money is Chinese. Instead of celebrating a big foreign investment, the new post-Brexit British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has kicked into the long grass a £25-billion project that could deliver more than a tenth of Britain’s electricity for the next six decades.
Globe & Mail 10th Aug 2016 read more »
The Espoo Convention Compliance Committee has closed its investigation on compliance by the United Kingdom in the case of Hinkley Point C. It found that the UK has not met its obligations to discuss the impact of a nuclear accident with the affected public in other countries. The findings from the Implementation Committee will be presented for endorsement to the next plenary session of Parties in Minsk in June 2017. The Espoo Convention Implementation Committee was informed about the matter by the Green member of the German Federal Parliament Sylvia Kötting-Uhl and the NGO Friends of the Irish Environment in March 2013. They alleged that the UK failed to consult the public about the potential transboundary implications of the construction and operation of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor. Austria did participate in the procedure, after it had actively notified its interest under the Espoo Convention. It then showed with its own studies that there should be consultation because of the possibility of a severe accident that could lead to radioactive materials being spread by wind across Europe. At the request of the Espoo Convention Implementation Committee, the Netherlands and Norway also informed that transboundary impacts in their viewpoint could not be excluded. France, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Spain and Germany did not challenge the UK claim that transboundary impacts would be impossible. In its findings, the Implementation Committee concluded that the United Kingdom should have notified countries other than only Ireland of the potential impacts of the Hinkley Point C project.
Nuclear Transparency Watch 10th Aug 2016 read more »
Alan Whitehead MP: The British government, under its previous management signed up in October 2015 to a ‘Secretary of State Investor Agreement’ (SOSIA) through a ‘notification that the Secretary of State may approve the entering into of contracts regarding the Hinkley Point C power station that could give rise to liabilities’. This agreement, not debatable by Parliament, entered into all sorts of contingent liabilities for decommissioning, cost capping risk, and so on. But one obscure detail, and I set it out in full, now looks to be a little less obscure. “Under the SOSIA,” (which the Secretary of State has now signed) the minute says “in certain highly unlikely scenarios e.g. HMG permanently prevents the construction or operation of the facility or a reactor where there is a political shutdown of HPC by a UK EU or an international competent authority, payments could be around £22bn”. Now, in the light of this, and in the light of a project that probably now no-one wants, but no-one can pull out of, it is not too fantastical to suggest that the best course of action for the UK government might be to pretend to press ahead with the project, hoping that EDF falls on its sword soon as the sheer scale of the problems it is grappling with become unmanageable. Voila! £22bn is saved and electricity can revert to a real market price. It could be argued that EDF, on the other hand, has a financial incentive to continue while doing everything it can to inveigle the UK government into cancelling. Voila! Up to £22bn comes the way of EDF for not building anything, and it can happily get on with the rest of its life. So which will it be? The new management suggests, according to Bloomberg reports, that it “is not responsible for any of the project costs until a contract is signed for Hinkley”, but perhaps it has not yet discovered the obscure DECC minute apparently committing the UK to cough up £22bn if it cancels. Or maybe it has, and is, right now scratching its head at the sheer awfulness of all of it. Either way it’s a good plot for the next episode.
Business Green 10th Aug 2016 read more »
A former Downing Street advisor who up until a few weeks ago was at the heart of Number 10’s energy and climate change efforts has set out a detailed vision for meeting the country’s carbon targets, fuelling speculation the strategy and its focus on nuclear, offshore wind, and electric vehicles, could provide the foundations for the government’s imminent decarbonisation plan. In an essay published on LinkedIn late last month, Stephen Heidari-Robinson offers his “personal reflections on decarbonisation in the UK”, providing an insight into the Cameron government’s thinking on a host of recent energy policy reforms and sketching out his preferred approach for meeting the UK’s fifth carbon budget, which requires a 57 per cent cut in emissions against 1990 levels by the early 2030s.
Business Green 11th Aug 2016 read more »
Theresa May’s government has put the brakes on Hinkley Point C, the first nuclear power station to be built in the UK in twenty years, with a final decision to be made in September. But the government should stop agonising and cancel the project. There is no commercial or environmental sense in investing billions into a project that is outdated before construction has even begun.
City AM 10th Aug 2016 read more »