Oct.21 - The British government has signed an agreement with French energy giant EDF to build two nuclear reactors for a total cost of 16 billion pounds, at a time when other European countries like Germany are phasing out nuclear power. Ciara Sutton reports.
It will be the first nuclear power plant built in Europe since Japan's Fukushima disaster raised international safety concerns. France's EDF and the British government have sealed a deal to build two reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, costing around 16 billion pounds. British Prime Minister David Cameron insists the move will benefit British taxpayers and create jobs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UK PRIME MINISTER, DAVID, CAMERON, SAYING: "What we know if that by investing in nuclear power stations, we actually increase the chance that bills would be lower than they otherwise would have been if we didn't invest in technologies like this." EDF will lead a consortium, including China General Nuclear Power Group, to construct two pressurised water reactors designed by France's Areva. British finance minister George Osborne signed an agreement in China last week, allowing Chinese companies to enter Britain's nuclear power sector. Beijing sees Hinkley Point C as a foot in the European door and hopes to use its British references to sell nuclear plants worldwide. Renewable Energy professor at Durham University, Janusz Bialek, doesn't see a problem with Chinese involvement. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DONG ENERGY PROFESSOR OF RENEWABLE ENERGY FROM DURHAM UNIVERSITY'S SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING SCIENCES, JANUSZ BIALEK, SAYING: "We need someone with very big pockets in order to finance the nuclear industry. And China has the pockets - it's one of the few countries in the world with very deep pockets. I do not see objectively a problem with it. People react to it emotively because it is China and there are all sort of questions raised. But I think that's a political problem rather than a real problem." The nuclear industry's fallen out of favour since 2011's Fukushima disaster. Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power, Italy has scrapped a planned programme and France is to cut its sector by around 25 percent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DONG ENERGY PROFESSOR OF RENEWABLE ENERGY FROM DURHAM UNIVERSITY'S SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING SCIENCES, JANUSZ BIALEK, SAYING: "Nuclear energy provides about 80 percent of supplies in France - they will have to replace it. Basically the main problem with nuclear is huge uncertainty with costs." The UK is willing to take that risk. It needs to replace 20 percent of its ageing power plants over the next decade and hopes the two Hinkley reactors will increase the UK's energy security. The government's prioritised securing power supply. But Hinkley Point won't provide all the answers - it will only produce about 7% of British electricity, from 2023 onwards.