China General Nuclear Power Group reaffirmed its commitment to buy from UK supply chain companies to build nuclear power plants in the UK and across countries covered by the Belt and Road Initiative ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May's China visit.
"As Chinese indigenous nuclear technology develops a global footprint, Chinese and British supply chain companies have abundant opportunities to collaborate in the UK and other markets, utilizing their respective strengths to achieve win-win partnerships," CGN chairman He Yu said.
With CGN's support, Chinese and British nuclear supply chain companies have already signed preliminary agreements across fields such as civil construction, installation, digital controls, instrumentation and radiation monitoring.
CGN's signature nuclear technology, HPR1000, is currently under General Design Assessment review by the British regulator. Once approved, CGN will use it at Britain's Bradwell B nuclear power station and markets around the world, especially within the Belt and Road region.
First proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative seeks to strengthen connectivity between Asia and Europe through infrastructure investment. CGN is in discussion with more than 20 countries along the Belt and Road for new nuclear projects.
GDA review for HPR1000 began in January 2017, and successfully passed the first stage in November. CGN estimates the whole review to take five years.
If all goes as planned, Bradwell B will become the first plant in a developed country to use HPR1000, and a "window to showcase HPR1000 technology to the world", He said.
Aside from Bradwell B, CGN is also investing in Britain's Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C, alongside France's EDF. CGN and EDF signed the deal for all three plants in October 2015 during Xi's state visit to the UK. The first, Hinkley, will generate 7 percent of UK power supply upon completion in 2025.
Andy Storer, CEO of the UK government-funded Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, said the deployment of HPR1000 in the UK can immediately help UK companies grow capability and aid their longer-term export potential.
"Any partnerships formed through the HPR1000 between UK and Chinese firms could be exploited to generate export opportunity," Storer said.
The UK enjoyed historical leadership in nuclear technology. Its Cumbria-based Calder Hall station, opened in 1956, is the world's first and oldest industrial-scale nuclear power station. But over the past two decades British nuclear supply chain started losing capability, as the country's most recently completed nuclear station, Sizewell B, was completed in 1995.
James McNamara, head of nuclear strategy and development at Hayward Tyler, said CGN's UK investment can crucially "reinvigorate" the UK's nuclear supply chain strength.
Hayward Tyler and China's Shanghai Apollo Machinery joined hands last year to create new nuclear equipment, which they will use to bid for contracts at Hinkley, Bradwell and other international plants. "Opportunity to work with Chinese partners is now prompting British companies like us to reinvest into our nuclear capacity," McNamara said.
Clive White, president of Wood's nuclear business, agrees. "The Belt and Road Initiative could create export opportunities for British companies who have worked with CGN in the UK, and that is clearly an exciting prospect for our industry," he said.
Wood is currently providing technical assistance on GDA for HPR1000.