Before the vote to exit the European Union, Great Britain had considered nuclear power its silver bullet — the one to help it reduce its carbon emissions while also keeping the lights on. But all that almost changed after the so-called Brexit vote — when the newly sworn in Prime Minister Teresa May hesitated, saying that she feared it would give the Chinese too much control over the nation’s electricity supply.
Last week, though, Prime Minister May went ahead with the deal that Former Prime Minister David Cameron had started: Hinkley Point C, which will cost an estimated $24 million. The Chinese will invest about a third of the money while the largely stated-owned Electricite de France will build it.
“This also marks the next generation of nuclear power in Britain, which has an important part to play in contributing to our future energy needs and our longer term security of supply,” Cameron had said, in a statement. “It will increase energy security and resilience from a safe, reliable, home-grown source of electricity.”
As for Great Britain, it has made a strategic decision to phase-out its coal-fired power by 2025 and instead, build this huge nuclear facility that is 3,200 megawatts. When Prime Minister May had wanted to reconsider, she got a sharp rebuke from the Chinese who had felt as if she was backing down from the earlier agreement — a move that the Chinese felt would hurt business relations between the two countries; the Chinese have other planned investments in Great Britain.
Last week, May decided to go ahead with the deal but the government there has chosen to implement some safeguards that it feels would prevent the Chinese from unduly using their leverage over the country’s electricity market place:
“Having thoroughly reviewed the proposal for Hinkley Point C, we will introduce a series of measures to enhance security and will ensure Hinkley cannot change hands without the Government’s agreement,” said UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark in a press release. “Britain needs to upgrade its supplies of energy, and we have always been clear that nuclear is an important part of ensuring our future low-carbon energy security.”
What makes Great Britain’s energy choices so remarkable is that they are in direct contrast to countries like Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain, which are phasing out their nuclear power plants. Ultimately, those countries feel like they can meet their responsibilities under the COP21 Paris climate accords through renewables.