LONDON — The British government Thursday said it would push ahead with a contentious deal to build a nuclear power station financed in part with French and Chinese investment, but only after making changes intended to address security concerns.
Britain, which angered its international partners by postponing a final decision on the $24 billion Hinkley Point C project in July, said in a statement that the government would take a “special share” in any nuclear projects built in the future.
Although the statement made no reference to China, it almost certainly had the Beijing leadership in mind when it noted that the changes would ensure that “significant stakes cannot be sold without the government’s knowledge or consent.”
The government will also add a review of any deal for national security implications, and the revised terms mean that Britain will have a much greater say if EDF, the largely state-owned French company that is the main investor in the plant, wishes to sell its stake in the plant to a foreign buyer.
The delay, which was ordered by Prime Minister Theresa May shortly after she took office, was seen as a calculated shift away from the ties with Beijing that her predecessor, David Cameron, had cultivated. He often courted China despite geopolitical, security, and human rights concerns.
May decided to review the construction of the nuclear power plant in Somerset, even though the costs of canceling the project at such a late stage would have been considerable: EDF would have claimed compensation after spending large amounts on development and construction; trade with China would have almost certainly suffered; and Hinkley is crucial for Britain to avoid an energy shortage in the future.
“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,” Greg Clark, the secretary of state for business and energy, said in the statement.
Opponents of the power plant argued that it represented poor value for money and that British taxpayers would end up paying higher prices for energy.