The Chinese government could end up with a stake in Britain’s nuclear programme, with two Beijing-backed energy groups involved in talks to buy the Horizon consortium from its German owners.
Eon and RWE put their joint venture, which plans to build two reactors in Britain, up for sale in March, prompting widespread fears about Britain’s energy strategy. Nomura was appointed last week to find a buyer.
At least two loosely formed consortia are weighing up rival bids for the Horizon sites at Wylfa in north Wales and Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. Western utilities, Chinese state-owned power companies and sovereign wealth funds are involved in talks, the Financial Times has learnt.
The discussions are being closely watched by the UK government, which is relying on the success of a nuclear programme to ensure that the country meets its energy needs in the next decade – and its climate commitments beyond that.
“The stakes really are high, this is about the lights staying on,” a Whitehall insider said.
Officials are aware that the prospect of China investing in Britain’s nuclear energy programme will not escape criticism.
Centrica has indicated that it might withdraw from a separate consortium with EDF, the French energy group, to build other nuclear plants.