China is due to co-fund a new nuclear powers station at Hinkley Point in southwest England, which is being built by French energy giant EDF. However, despite China backing the project and EDF giving the final investment decision the go ahead, British Prime Minister Theresa May surprised both France and China by deferring a decision over the plant.
It is rumored May was spooked by the idea of China having such close access to Britain's national infrastructure, amid fear of nuclear secrets being accessed by Beijing and second thoughts over allowing China to build another plant at Bradwell in the east of England.
The decision has rattled Beijing, whose media mouthpiece Xinhua, saying:
"London has recently made a positive step forward in trying to dilute uncertainties clouding its relations with Beijing following a controversial decision to delay a major nuclear power plant co-sponsored with China and France.
"Apparently, London's so-called 'national security' concerns over Chinese investment into the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant could well endanger the bright new prospects the two nations' leadership have agreed to foster during Chinese President Xi Jinping' s visit to Britain last October.
"The worries over the plant are as groundless as they are unnecessary. The Chinese investor only has one-third of the project's stakes while the French side holds all the rest. Thus it is impossible and commercially suicidal for the Chinese side to manipulate the project at its own will," said Xinhua.
EDF Energy in the UK has been planning to build a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point for several years, but the project has been bedeviled by financial uncertainty and technical issues. Despite the British Government agreeing a 'strike price' with EDF Energy in the UK, which guarantees EDF a price of US$141 MWh for generating electricity over 35 years and a debt guarantee, EDF could not go ahead with the project alone.
In October 2015, former Prime Minister David Cameron struck a deal allowing China to fund a third of the project, with a promise it would be preferred bidder to build another plant at Bradwell. Critics said allowing China such a foothold in the UK could compromise the UK's national security.