Chinese investors push for more Chinese staff and materials, as EDF insists Brexit won’t affect project

Chinese investors behind EDF’s £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset are ramping up their involvement in the beleaguered project and pushing for Chinese staff and materials to be deployed on the job, Building understands.

The long-delayed plant is part-funded by China General Nuclear, which is reported to have a 33.5% stake in Hinkley, while its compatriot Chinese National Nuclear Corporation is in talks to take a stake in the project.

A source close to the project told Building these Chinese investors want more involvement in the project than just putting money into it and are looking to get Chinese workers and materials on board.

The source said: “[The Chinese] are keen to have a wider impact than just financing. They’re looking at getting Chinese project managers on it and so on, to progress the project quicker.”

Developer EDF has encouraged Hinkley contractors to buy Chinese equipment and components, the source said.

The news came as a new assessment by the UK government emerged estimating that the total lifetime cost of the nucler plant could be as high as £37bn. The same energy department’s estimate a year ago had been £14bn.

The Chinese are keen to back Hinkley despite last month’s Brexit vote, as they are determined to demonstrate an “understanding of the Western nuclear market and regulation” as part of their global expansion push, Building’s source said.

There has been little demand for Chinese products at the moment among the civil engineering contractors currently on site, the source said, but more interest is expected when M&E contracts are awarded as Chinese components for that kind of work tend to be cheaper.

In response, an EDF spokesperson said: “It is now estimated that contracts worth more than 60% of the construction cost for Hinkley Point C will be placed with UK firms.”

Market sources close to the project also told Building that EDF sent a letter to contractors after the EU referendum result insisting Brexit would not affect the project and that plans would progress as normal.

EDF has informed contractors a final investment decision on Hinkley is still expected to be made in early September.

The EDF spokesperson said: “EDF confirms its commitment to the Hinkley Point project, which continues [after Brexit].”