Unions raise fears over China’s UK nuclear role


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The Independent Online

The Government is risking Britain’s security by wooing the Chinese to invest in its nuclear programme, union leaders have warned.

Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, met state-backed companies in China last month to try to get them to stump up billions for the next generation of British nuclear power stations.

In the next few weeks, France’s EDF Energy is expected to finalise a deal with the government to build a £14bn nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, in which China General Nuclear Power Corp will then take a stake of at least 40 per cent.

However, China has been accused of backing cyber-attacks on overseas nations to gain intelligence. Cyber-crime has been estimated to cost the British economy as much as £27bn a year. Eric Schmidt, the Google chief executive, has said China is the most “sophisticated and prolific” hacker of foreign companies.

GMB national secretary for energy Gary Smith told The Independent that the country could not be warned about the Chinese trying to steal state secrets and then give them access to nuclear plants where they could “turn the lights on and off”.

He added that China had been handed “swathes of gas pipelines, water utilities and now nuclear power stations, so they will have the power to turn off utilities – it’s almost Orwellian”.

The unions want a broader range of regulations in utilities that would extend to the companies that invest in UK infrastructure.

A source close to the nuclear negotiations said: “This is a perfectly good question to ask, but from a security point-of-view the Chinese will not have any operational control and there is immensely robust security.”