Kwasi Kwarteng seeks US investment for UK nuclear plants to end reliance on China

·2 min read
Kwasi Kwarteng is set to hold talks with the US energy secretary this week - PA
Kwasi Kwarteng is set to hold talks with the US energy secretary this week - PA

The Business Secretary is to fly to the US this week to drum up American investment in new nuclear plants amid concerns that the UK is too reliant on China for help building reactors in Britain.

Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to hold talks with Jennifer Granholm, the US energy secretary, in Washington DC, where a Whitehall source said the minister was “keen to strengthen cooperation with the Americans on energy security”.

Last month Boris Johnson and Mr Kwarteng announced plans for a massive expansion of nuclear energy in Britain as part of the country’s new energy security strategy that followed Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Kwarteng is said to be concerned that Britain has become too reliant on two major players in the nuclear market – China General Nuclear, a Chinese state-owned energy giant, and EDF, which is owned by the French state.

Tory MPs have warned ministers to avoid embedding Chinese state-owned companies within the UK’s critical national infrastructure.

Mr Kwarteng and Ms Granholm are also expected to discuss the possibility of the US unloading more liquid natural gas at British terminals to be exported to Europe through two gas interconnectors, as part of plans to reduce the EU’s reliance on energy from Russia.

Ministers are hoping to raise more than £10 billion in private capital to fund the new Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk. The Government is expected to take a 20 per cent equity stake in the project, with a further 20 per cent for EDF and the final 60 per cent coming from private investors.

A Whitehall source said: “We’ve become too reliant on a handful of companies to develop new nuclear. Britain split the atom and built the world’s first full-scale nuclear power station, but we’ve fallen so far behind after three decades of drift.

“We want British and American companies to pile in the cash to get our nuclear renaissance off the ground. The Business Secretary is keen to work with safe and reliable investors from like-minded countries and hug them close.”