Chinese engineers will be barred from working on the new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk – even though they are playing a key role in building its sister plant.
Whitehall sources revealed last night that China General Nuclear will be confined to providing finance if it is allowed to play any part in the Sizewell project.
It follows mounting concern over the security risk of giving China too big a role in Britain’s infrastructure after the Government was forced to reverse its decision to let Huawei build the 5G mobile phone network earlier this year.
The Government was forced to reverse its decision to let Huawei build the 5G mobile phone network earlier this year (file image)
Whitehall sources said that although the decision to build Sizewell has only been taken in principle, the ‘starting point’ of negotiations with French energy company EDF would be that CGN could only provide investment – with no ‘hands on’ role.
EDF is leading the two £20billion projects at Sizewell and its sister plant Hinkley Point in Gloucestershire, where construction began two years ago.
CGN is providing a third of the finance at Hinkley and around 40 of its staff work on the site and at its Bristol office.
The Chinese firm has provided 20 per cent of the cost of preparing EDF’s bid for Sizewell, a sum that runs to several millions.
It had intended to take part in engineering and construction work there as well as oversee building a future reactor at Bradwell in Essex.
But CGN’s involvement in new plants after Hinkley now seems doubtful.
Concerns over the Chinese firm are likely to increase as the Daily Mail can today reveal ten senior members of its staff working in Britain attended universities linked closely to China’s military and security services.
Several attended what China calls the ‘Seven Sons of National Defence’ – universities specialising in research into new military technology, including nuclear weapons and heath cyberwarfare.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think-tank co-funded by the UK Foreign Office, classes these institutions as ‘very high risk’.
EDF is leading the two £20billion projects at Sizewell and its sister plant Hinkley Point in Gloucestershire, where construction began two years ago (file image)
The Mail’s analysis of CGN staff in Britain shows that four attended universities that host major defence labs and are designated ‘high risk’.
Six went to colleges deemed ‘very high risk’.
Two attended the Harbin Institute of Technology.
It is said to excel in nuclear weapons and cyberwarfare research – for which it receives special funding from China’s ministry of state security.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘We shouldn’t use Chinese technology and we shouldn’t use Chinese engineers.
‘But that applies to Hinkley Point as well – you can’t afford to get this only half right.’
Sam Armstrong, a China expert at the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘By banning CGN from working at Sizewell, the Government is recognising the inevitable, but this decision may have come too late.
Who knows what they may have done at Hinkley Point?’
A Whitehall source said there were at present ‘no grounds’ to reopen the agreements made with CGN in 2016 when its role at Hinkley was confirmed.
The Department for Business said the final investors in Sizewell C have not yet been decided.
An EDF spokesman said CGN was helping to build Hinkley because of their experience with a similar plant in China.
CGN declined to comment.