China Signs $9b British Nuclear Deal

China Signs $9b British Nuclear DealChina Signs $9b British Nuclear Deal

China has agreed to invest $9 billion in EDF's Hinkley Point nuclear project, Britain's first new nuclear plant in a generation, in return for help to bring its own nuclear technology to the West in a subsequent project.

Chinese nuclear company CGN has committed to financing 33.5% of the 18 billion pound project, one of the world's costliest nuclear power stations, which Britain said it needs to replace aging reactors and polluting coal plants to ensure the lights stay on, Reuters reported.

The deal, announced as part of the Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Britain, is a boost for French nuclear plant operator EDF and reactor maker Areva, which are under pressure to prove their reactors can be built on time and on budget after other projects in Europe were billions of euros over budget and years behind schedule.

"This deal confirms the leadership of EDF and the way we are able to attract investors as demanding as the Chinese investors," Vincent de Rivaz, head of EDF's British unit EDF Energy, told reporters. The project at Hinkley Point will be the first new nuclear plant built in the European Union since 2011 when Japan's Fukushima reactor meltdown sent shockwaves through the world.

Subsequent regulatory changes and delays in finalizing Chinese investment have already delayed Hinkley Point C's startup date to 2025, two years later than the date announced in 2013 when Chinese participation was first agreed in principle.

EDF was forced to cut 400 jobs earlier this year when site preparations had finished but construction work was not sanctioned to start. The Chinese utility has also agreed to help EDF build two more Areva-designed EPR reactors at Sizewell, east England, and EDF has agreed to help CGN win a license to build a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Britain at the Bradwell site, east of London.