A senior US official has delivered a stark warning to Britain not to continue to let a Chinese state-run nuclear energy company control a large part of our electricity supply.
Dr Christopher Ford, the US State Department’s assistant secretary for non-proliferation and international security, warned that China General Nuclear (CGN) is closely linked to the Communist regime’s military. Any involvement in UK power generation would jeopardise our political independence for many decades, he said.
One of the company’s top engineers has previously been convicted and jailed in the US for running a spy network at the behest of Beijing. Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Dr Ford said: ‘We are trying to discourage our friends and partners from engaging with a Chinese nuclear company that is known for such acts.’
In an appeal to the British Government – whose relationship with Washington has already been damaged by the decision to allow Huawei, another Chinese firm, into the UK’s telecoms network – he asks: ‘Would I make my critical infrastructure dependent on a company with that reputation? No, I’d look for an alternative if I could.’
Dr Christopher Ford, the US State Department’s assistant secretary for non-proliferation and international security, warned that China General Nuclear (CGN) is closely linked to the Communist regime’s military
It is highly unusual for a serving US official to intervene so forcefully about an ally’s policy decisions but it shows how seriously the Trump administration views the Chinese threat.
Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Huawei poses a ‘real risk’ and added that Washington was evaluating the consequences for intelligence sharing with London.
Dr Ford’s fears are echoed by many senior figures in Britain, including Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6.
He told The Mail on Sunday that if CGN was allowed a key role in building two vast nuclear power plants – at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex – there would be a grave threat to national security.
An analysis by this newspaper shows that the Chinese could have total or partial control over more than a quarter of Britain’s electricity needs.
Dr Ford said this could result in ‘manipulation or coercion’, explaining: ‘China has not been shy about using economic levers as a political tool. Economic entanglements are being used for political purposes with greater frequency.’
He added that if Britain became dependent on CGN, China ‘could threaten to turn the switches on and off – and that can be a very powerful tool of influence.’
For his part, Sir Richard said: ‘Our whole relationship with China needs a total, strategic rethink. That includes everything that relates to critical national infrastructure.
‘We must put any decisions that involve letting China be part of our nuclear industry on hold.’
And former Brexit Secretary David Davis said: ‘If we continue to allow a Chinese company that has been convicted of espionage against America to control a dominant part of our nuclear industry, the special relationship with the US will be critically undermined.’
Veteran Foreign Office diplomat Matthew Henderson, director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, added: ‘Why would you want to give all this to a state that has lied about a global pandemic?
‘For China, getting involved in our nuclear industry meets their strategic objectives – to strengthen China and weaken the UK.’
A China General Nuclear engineer introduces the equipment of wind-generated electricity for heating at a zodiac reactor site in Khazakstan
Both Huawei and CGN are on a blacklist compiled by the US Commerce Department, which bans American companies from supplying technology to them.
The list says CGN is ‘engaged in or enabled efforts to acquire advanced US nuclear technology and material for diversion to military uses in China’.
This follows the admission by a top CGN engineer called Szuhsiung Ho, who lived for decades in America, that he had set up a nuclear espionage network at the behest of Beijing’s military.
The case, Dr Ford said, was a textbook example of China’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’, a secret programme directed by President Xi Jinping ‘to erase the barriers between civilian enterprises and China’s defence industrial base’.
He added that Chinese companies are ‘routinely tasked with acquiring foreign technology, not always legally, and bringing it back to China for purposes of diversion to the People’s Liberation Army and/or the security services.’
This has been called ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy.
Dr Ford claimed that China is using technology it has stolen from the West to build nuclear power reactors and to help its navy to develop next-generation ballistic missile submarines.
CGN’s involvement with power generation in Britain began under David Cameron’s government, as part of a policy critics dubbed ‘Operation Kowtow’. Initially, it was invited to finance a third of the £22.5 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.
But it soon became clear that CGN’s role was not limited to finance as there are about 150 Chinese engineers at the site.
In Suffolk, the firm is in partnership with the French state-run company EDF, which is about to submit its final ‘consent order’ for permission to build a similar power station to Hinkley – even though an unfinished prototype in northern France is eight years behind schedule and three times over budget.
CGN’s share of the final project has yet to be determined but it has already agreed to take an 80 per cent stake in Bradwell, where it wants to build two of its own Hualong 1 reactors.
Industry experts say that although Hinkley, Sizewell and Bradwell could supply at least a fifth of the total power generated in Britain, it is not proved that they are really needed.
Prices for other forms of power have plummeted, with the National Grid last week saying it was ready to pay EDF £50 million to halve output from the existing Sizewell B nuclear station because of concerns about over-production.
Meanwhile, there are worries about a possible and very controversial financing scheme for a new Sizewell plant that would mean consumers – already feeling the pinch from the pandemic – paying big surcharges on their fuel bills before it is even built.
What’s more, any nuclear-generated electricity from Hinkley has a price guarantee of £104 per megawatt hour – which will rise with inflation – which is more than twice the price of electricity produced from other sources.
Dr Ford added: ‘What Beijing has shown very clearly is that once it gets its hooks into you, it is not at all shy about using them.
‘We are keen to encourage our friends to pull out those hooks.’
CGN’s UK spokesman said the firm did not wish to comment.
Source: Daily Mail – Articles