The government has refused to comment about China's potential investment in the new £24bn Hinkley nuclear power plant in Somerset. Such involvement from the Chinese within the UK energy sector has been viewed with apprehension in the past due to historical links between Chinese industry and the military.
It is believed that China have proposed a 30-40% stake in the Somerset plant, however the government have refused to comment on whether the National Security Council have approved or even discussed this issue. Retorting to questions asked by the BBC about this situation Roger Smethurst, Cabinet Office official, stated that “there is a general public interest in disclosure of information and I recognise that openness in government may increase public trust in and engagement with the government. There is a definite public interest in members of the public being able to understand decisions taken on investment in critical national infrastructure.”
Derek Smith, head of communications for the National Security Council (NSC) told the BBC in an interview that “the government has put in place an approach which enables it to assess the risks associated with foreign investment and develop strategies to manage them… the NSC brings together the economic and security arms of the government and is the forum that ultimately balances the risks and opportunities of inward investment decisions.”
The government are refusing to give away any solid information about their decision regarding this investment, however the Cabinet Office stated that Chinese companies have “strong credentials and an established track record in delivering safe nuclear power over the past thirty years… any company involved in the UK’s nuclear power industry does so in accordance with the most stringent regulations in the world", suggesting that they are at least considering the offer.
With the current challenges faced by the UK oil industry, the government is keen to continue to expand and diversify the range of energy sources the UK relies on; primarily Nuclear and to a lesser extent renewables. Regardless of where the investment will come from it is certain to jumpstart the Nuclear energy industry, brining greater stability and security to the energy sector as well as creating a mass amount of new jobs. It is likely to also mean those effected by a reduction in job opportunities within the Oil & Gas industry could easily shift their expertise to the Nuclear sector.
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