22 October 2015

IChemE welcomes UK-China nuclear deal

Hinkley Point C | EDF

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has welcomed yesterday’s announcement of Chinese investment in a new nuclear power station in Somerset, UK.

The Strategic Investment Agreement was signed in London in the presence of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. It gives a green light for the construction and operation of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset. Completion is expected in 2025.

The decision, which represents the largest inward investment ever in the UK’s history, underpins the partnership between France's EDF Energy and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN). 

Historically, nuclear new build projects have been beset by difficulties. The last nuclear power station to be completed in the UK was Sizewell B in Suffolk in 1995 and the much talked about ‘nuclear renaissance’ has been hampered by political uncertainty and a lack of investor confidence. China’s arrival on the UK power generation scene changes all that.

Chemical engineering plays a vital role in the nuclear fuel cycle. Chemical engineers contribute at every stage including nuclear fuel enrichment and production, power plant design and operation, waste processing and storage and plant decommissioning.  Nuclear safety is also a key area of focus.

The Hinkley Point C project is expected to create 25,000 new jobs, with many new opportunities for engineers and scientists of all disciplines.  In addition, with climate change and global warming high on the agenda, the deal provides a major boost for the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

IChemE’s director of policy and communication, Andy Furlong, said: “This is a great development for the chemical engineering community. Britain's nuclear future hung in the balance and China came to the rescue.  Nevertheless, the deal is good news for investors, for chemical engineers and crucially, for energy security and our low carbon future."

The agreement sets up a wider UK partnership between EDF and CGN to develop additional nuclear power stations at Sizewell and also at Bradwell in Essex, UK.

The development was also welcomed by chemical engineers working on the Horizon Nuclear Power and NuGen projects who are developing proposals for additional power plants at Wylfa in North Wales, Oldbury in Gloucester, UK and at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK.

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IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).