Chinese company behind new UK nuclear power plant 'refused to give security details to British authorities'

UK regulator says failure to disclose the information is unlikely to prove a problem

Monday 02 October 2017 19:16
An artist’s impression of the new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C, which CGN is involved in building
An artist’s impression of the new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C, which CGN is involved in building

A Chinese energy company planning to build a nuclear power station in the UK refused to disclose security information to British authorities about another of its plants, it has been revealed.

The state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has applied for permission to build a plant in Bradwell, Essex, which would be its first in a western country.

However, staff from the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) were reportedly denied access to security details when they visited the company in Shenzhen, China, earlier this year. The trip was part of a four-year process that the company must pass before it is granted a licence to build a nuclear reactor at Bradwell.

Following the visit, UK inspectors praised the “high level of expertise and commitment” at CGN.

However, they said they had been refused security information about the CGN plant in Fangchenggang, China, which could be a model for the Bradwell facility. The inspectors’ report was released to The Guardian in response to a freedom of information request.

In it, they said: “With regard to the sharing of information, such as the security plans for FCG [Fangchenggang] Unit 3, CGN stated that these were protected documents under Chinese regulations.”

It is common procedure for other countries not to share sensitive security details during the approval process, the ONR said.

The regulator’s Chief Operating Officer, Robert Davies, said: “As you would expect, all nuclear companies around the world protect sensitive information concerning the security of their own national nuclear sites, and regulators understand and support such essential precautions.”

CGN is pushing ahead with plans for the power station at Bradwell in addition to its involvement in a new nuclear facility at Hinkley Point C in Somerset.

That project was previously delayed because of fears over Chinese involvement. While the plant is mostly being built by French company EDF, a third of the investment is coming from CGN.

Theresa May announced a review of the project in July 2016 amid concerns that Chinese involvement in such a sensitive industry could leave Britain open to energy blackmail.

It was given the go-ahead last September after ministers said they had agreed “significant new safeguards”.

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