CGN, a privileged partner of EDF in the United Kingdom and China, has been banned from access to US nuclear technologies, against the backdrop of a trade war between Washington and Beijing.
In the middle of the summer, the decision went unnoticed: the US Department of Commerce has placed Thursday, August 15, several Chinese nuclear groups on its blacklist, which prohibits US companies any commercial activity with them. The China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), China's largest public nuclear group, is EDF's main partner in China, but also in the United Kingdom, where it provides one-third of Hinkley Point project financing. to build two EPR-type reactors in the west of the island.
The Trump government had already announced restrictions on exports to China in 2018 for US companies. It goes further, formally prohibiting access to CGN to all US nuclear technologies. Against the background of a trade war between Beijing and Washington, the US Department of Commerce accuses these groups of having tried "To acquire advanced US nuclear technologies for military uses in China".
The consequences of the US decision are likely to be important in the UK, where CGN plays a key role in nuclear development
In 2016, the US Department of Justice had accused CGN of industrial espionage, and in August 2017, a company engineer was sentenced to two years in prison in the United States for attempting to recruit nuclear experts to develop military applications.
The consequences of this choice are likely to be significant across the Channel, where CGN plays a key role in nuclear development. Today's UK reactors are reaching the end of their life and must be closed between 2025 and 2035 (they supply about 20% of the country's electricity). The government has planned several new reactors, but the difficulties have accumulated because of funding problems.
No impact on the Hinkley Point calendar
The only project under construction is at Hinkley Point, Somerset, on EDF's initiative. But, to be able to ensure the colossal financing of two reactors EPR, the French group had to appeal to its Chinese partner CGN, which ensures 33% of this investment to 24 billion euros. A controversial engagement in the UK, but eventually received support from the authorities.
Questioned by The worldEDF believes that this decision should not have an impact on the Hinkley Point calendar. The first reactor is scheduled to start in 2025. The contract signed with the authorities planned to work mainly with British subcontractors. But the chain effects that could trigger the US decision are still poorly known.