There is much anticipation surrounding the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping.
He will no doubt face press coverage on a number of controversial issues, from the ivory trade to human rights. However, the pending nuclear deal between Chinese partners and EDF on the financing of the Hinkley Point C European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) is coming under a particularly bright spotlight.
On Tuesday or Wednesday, President Xi Jingping is expected to sign an agreement that will pave the way for EDF’s Final Investment Decision. This may also see funding put in place for a new EDF reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk and a Chinese built reactor at Bradwell in Essex.
Notwithstanding EDF’s construction delays on building similar EPR reactors in Flamanville (France) and Olkiluoto (Finland), the security implications of Chinese written software running the new stations is also raising anxiety in certain quarters. But should we be overly concerned? The Office for Nuclear Regulation will, as part of its independent scrutiny of the construction and operation, be supported by cyber-security experts in analysing the software for suspicious code.
Moreover, would the Chinese hide malicious code and thereby threaten their investment in the UK and its wider nuclear exports markets? Time will no doubt tell, but the risk on our side seems to be worth taking; at least the Prime Minister and EDF seem to think so.
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