(Front row LtoR) EDF Group CEO Jean-Bernard Levy, Britain's Business Minister Greg Clark, and China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) Chairman, He Yu, swap paperwork as they attend a signing ceremony in London, September 29, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The British government has signed an £18 billion agreement with French energy giant EDF and a Chinese firm for the construction of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, South West England.
The signing ceremony—attended by high officials from the UK, France and China—was held behind closed doors in London on Thursday.
This was the second attempt at signing the controversial deal, after UK Prime Minister Theresa May put it on a halt in July, citing the need to review the details. She approved the contract two weeks ago.
UK business and energy Secretary Greg Clark, who attended the meeting on behalf of his country, said the contract addressed national security and ownership concerns.
"Signing the contract for difference for Hinkley Point C is a crucial moment in the UK's first new nuclear power station for a generation and follows new measures put in place by Government to strengthen security and ownership,” he said.
Following May’s intervention, Clark had announced that there would be new restrictions on future investments in critical infrastructure due to national security concerns.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, another attendee, defended the deal and said it would boost the whole industry.
"It's a good deal. I know it has raised questions, particularly in France, but it represents an opportunity for the future of an entire industry," Ayrault said ahead of the ceremony
This file photo by EDF shows a computer generated image of the French energy producer's proposed two nuclear reactors, Hinkley Point C (HPC), at their Hinkley Point power plant in south-west England.
EDF will build the plant in cooperation with China General Nuclear. Hen Yu, the Chinese company’s chairman, said the deal was a “triple-win.”
“This flagship program is a triple-win for China, Britain, and France and is a culmination of years of cooperation between the three countries,” he said.
The power plant will be the UK’s first in many years after Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk, which was commissioned in 1995.
Critics have slammed the government for negotiating the Hinkely Point C project in secret. They also claim that the plant is technically flawed and possibly unbuildable.
“It beggars belief that this government, which prides itself on pinching the pennies, plans to spend tens of billions on Hinkley Point – the most expensive white elephant in British history,” Green MP Caroline Lucas said in July. “It seems its commitment to inflexible, outdated, unaffordable power production knows no bounds.”