EDF Denies Rising Chinese Influence at U.K. Nuclear Site

Electricite de France SA denied a media report that China General Nuclear Power Corp.’s role at a U.K. nuclear site is increasing, underlining the growing tensions about China’s involvement in critical infrastructure.

The company understated the number of Chinese personnel on site and leaned heavily on CGN’s expertise in planning and construction, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing company documents and unidentified sources. The newspaper also said Chinese engineers proposed a way to lift a concrete dome onto the reactor at Hinkley Point C that would’ve involved dangling the heavy structure above workers, before it was deemed too dangerous.

The allegations in the story are “untrue,” an EDF spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. “The role of CGN is not increasing at Hinkley Point C and at no stage did anyone on the project suggest lifting a structure over workers, nor has there been any disagreement over the approach to be taken to the dome lift,” according to the statement, which said there are about 30 CGN employees at the project, out of a total 6,000.

The U.K. government this month banned Huawei Technologies Co. gear from the country’s 5G mobile networks, signaling rising concern about Chinese investments. The ban followed years of White House campaigning for allies to bar the vendor and reversed a U.K. decision in January to allow carriers to use Huawei in a limited capacity.

EDF owns about two-thirds of the Hinkley Point program while CGN holds the rest. The project was approved in 2016. The Tories have demanded a review of the plant, the Telegraph said, citing former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith saying ministers were misled when they approved China’s role as just a financial partner in the project.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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