High Noon In Hangzhou For China's Role In UK Nuclear Power Stations Says GMB
The UK Government must be hard-headed in pursuit of the national interest and not abandon their commitment with other parties to secure a low carbon and affordable energy future says GMB.
On 4th & 5th September, the Prime Minister attends the G20 summit of world leaders in Hangzhou, China, where a discussion on the future of the Hinkley Point C project will take place.
GMB raised serious concerns more than a year ago about the risks of the Bradwell nuclear site in Essex being handed over lock, stock and barrel to China General Nuclear Power (CGN) as part of the deal to fund Hinkley Point C. (See notes to editors for a copy of GMB press release from June 2015)
GMB supports Hinkley Point C going ahead but believes the Bradwell plant should be scaled back from a contractual obligation to a commitment to examine the feasibility of the project if the Chinese technology is approved by the UK nuclear regulatory authorities.
Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “It is High Noon in Hangzhou as Theresa May meets her Chinese counterparts to discuss the future of Hinkley Point C in a final showdown. What is not clear yet is if she will emerge in the Gary Cooper role as hero Marshall Will Kane, or as the villain arriving on the train at noon. The UK Government must be hard-headed in pursuit of the national interest at the same time as not abandoning their commitment, with other parties, to secure a low carbon and affordable energy future.
The Chinese government must be realistic and realise that the future of Bradwell B nuclear power station using Chinese technology is not something that can be covered by a binding contract and what is required is a political agreement: The Chinese companies should submit the technology to the UK Nuclear Regulatory Authorities for approval; then if approved, a final decision on Bradwell B and the supply chain can be made by the elected UK government.”
Contact: Justin Bowden on 07710 631351 or GMB press office on 07958 156846 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
Monday, June 29, 2015
Letter Confirms That UK Government Is Preparing To Hand Over Future UK Nuclear Infrastructure To The Chinese State Says GMB
This position driven by ideological dogma is a total betrayal of workers in the UK and of the long term interests of the UK economy and must be changed says GMB.
GMB, the union for workers in the nuclear industry and in engineering construction, responded to a reply from Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to an earlier letter from GMB. This raised concerns at the prospect of the Bradwell nuclear site being handed over lock, stock and barrel to the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) as part of the deal to fund Hinkley Point C. See notes to editors for copy of GMB letter of 10th June and the reply from Amber Rudd dated 17th June attached as a pdf.
Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for energy, said “I have studied the letter from Amber Rudd carefully and conclude that it looks that the UK Government is preparing for a hand over of the future UK nuclear infrastructure to the Chinese state.
This is a total betrayal of workers in the UK and of the long term interests of the UK economy. Amber Rudd accepts that UK manufacturers and the nuclear industry in the UK will play no part in the global nuclear industry which will be dominated by China.
This treachery is driven by ideological dogma on Osborne's part over funding for the energy sector. The UK Government is relying on foreign state owned companies to fund the development of new nuclear stations having stood down UK state owned companies to do the job that the private sector is clearly not prepared to do.
This also comes at a time when the Americans are accusing China of industrial scale hacking and being a threat to international security.
We also now know that unless this stance is changed any new nuclear projects in Eastern Region will be utterly dominated by the Chinese state.
GMB consider that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority should be re-tasked and renamed the Nuclear Development Authority to get momentum on behalf to the UK State into the much needed new build rather than relying on the French and Chinese States to do the job for us.“
Contact: Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary on 07710 618909 or GMB Press Office on 07921 289880 or 07974 251823.
Notes to editors
1 pdf copy of Government reply dated 17th June 2015 attached as an additional resource below.
2 GMB letter dated 10 June 2014
To Secretary of State,
Department for Energy and Climate Change
GMB, as a major union in the nuclear industry and in the engineering and engineering construction sectors, are writing to you to register our concern about linkages between the funding the new Hinkley Point C nuclear station and the technology to be used in a possible new nuclear station in Bradwell in Essex.
In particular we are concerned at the prospect of the Bradwell nuclear site being handed over lock, stock and barrel to the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) as part of the deal to fund Hinkley Point C. Our understanding is that handing over the Bradwell site to the CNNC for them to use their own nuclear technology is something that has been under consideration as they are linking this to them funding Hinkley Point C.
The idea that a Chinese state company will be given a site in the UK not far from London where they can use Chinese labour to construct a reactor to be made in China and using Chinese components would in our view constitute economic madness and raises serious safety issues.
We have got to this potentially dangerous linkage because we are relying on foreign state owned companies to fund the development of new nuclear stations having stood down our own state owned companies to do the job that the private sector is clearly not prepared to do.
GMB consider that funding of nuclear developments should always be kept totally separate from the regulation of the design and construction of new nuclear facilities and the transport and safeguarding of nuclear and radioactive materials.
It is the lack of progress on putting together the funding for Hinkley Point C that has brought us to this point. Due to this lack of progress we are seeing job losses at Hinkley Point C rather than seeing thousands of jobs created. The on-going delay and uncertainty is bad news for the UK, in terms of the supply of much needed low carbon electricity as well as jobs in construction industry and the manufacturing supply chain. These delays come on top of the widespread speculation that the project may be scrapped unless Chinese funding is agreed is doing nothing for investor confidence in the future viability of nuclear new build in the UK.
Given our long history in improving safety in the nuclear industry we were deeply concerned to read the comments of physicist He Zuoxiu, an eminent nuclear scientist in China. He Zuoxiu has publicly raised concerns about the safety standards of Chinese components in the nuclear industry. Indeed he has gone further in criticising the Chinese nuclear industry, and it is unusual for such an official to speak out in this way. It suggests that there are very serious issues in the nuclear industry, whilst at the same time China is looking to dominate nuclear new build in the UK.
Such a development raises serious concerns about national security. If the UK is in a position where we are so desperate for foreign investment in our energy infrastructure that we are prepared to completely surrender control of the design, manufacture and construction of a strategically vital nuclear reactor to a Chinese state company then the UK Government needs to pull back and reconsider how we fund new nuclear stations.
It is clear we desperately need investment in new energy infrastructure. What is fast becoming a crisis in funding for new nuclear but more generally in building generating capacity, tells us that we require an urgent debate on how we fund the building of new powers stations.
For too long successive governments have viewed electricity as another commodity, it's isn't because ultimately the government is the guarantor of last resort. This is not an ideological position but a simple statement of fact. New thinking on energy is urgently required and GMB would welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate on we meet the Nation’s future energy needs. I would be very pleased to meet with you to discuss the concerns of our trade union.
It is hardly surprising that these developments give rise to concerns over the safety of the nuclear sector. Having been involved in the nuclear industry for many decades, safety has always been our top priority. Indeed our union has been at the centre if raising safety standards in the nuclear industry, which in turn raised public confidence in nuclear. GMB was the union that fought for the establishment of the nuclear workers compensation scheme which was a catalyst for change and improvements on safety standards.
We need to be clear that nuclear new build should not happen at any cost. GMB would caution that handing over a greater share of the manufacturing supply chain to Chinese companies, in exchange for funding, is fraught with risk for the long term interests of UK.
I would be grateful if you could advise me what discussions you have had with regulatory bodies in the UK over safety standards in Chinese nuclear industry and its associated supply chain. In particular I would like to know whether the Office for Nuclear Regulation believes He Zuoxiu’s determinations on safety in the Chinese nuclear industry are valid. I would also like to know what assessments have been done on Chinese made nuclear components.
Given the profound safety issues that arise from this possible linkage GMB will be writing to the ONR and the following regulatory bodies raising our concerns: Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Dept for Transport, Food Standards Agency, International Atomic Energy Agency (a UN body) and EURATOM (European Atomic Energy Committee).
I look forward to your response.
Gary Smith GMB National Secretary for Energy
High Noon In Hangzhou For China's Role In UK Nuclear Power Stations Says GMB