Should we be worried about the Chinese owning our nuclear power stations?

Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset is in need of regeneration. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Chancellor George Osborne has today given formal Government approval for Chinese state-run firms to buy into British nuclear power generation.

Yet another example of how the UK Government is turning to the world's second largest economy seeking cash injections to speed up much needed infrastructure renewal.

The doors are also open for Chinese involvement in telecoms, utilities (China already has a stake in Thames Water) and large construction projects, like the 35-acre site in London's Docklands due to be developed by Chinese firm ABP.

Unlike the other sectors which already see Chinese state and private company investment, nuclear power is highly sensitive.

Today, George Osborne has approved future majority stakes for the Chinese, allowing China to control the firms running our nuclear generation.

Officials I've spoken to during the Chancellor's trade mission to China this week say the Chinese must, of course, meet the existing high standards of safety and security which already regulate the nuclear power industry.

Chancellor George Osborne is currently on a trade mission in China. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

The strict rules around nuclear power are there for obvious reasons and have been in place for decades. The UK is the world's oldest civil nuclear power.

The same officials making reassurances about Chinese security are also using "burner" phones and alternative temporary email addresses while touring China with the Chancellor.

A few years ago, a Downing Street official had his phone, containing a sensitive contact list, stolen in Shanghai in a suspected "honey trap" operation.

Yet Chinese state-run nuclear companies, controlled by the same government which is involved in hacking and stealing British commercial and political secrets, will now be allowed access to precise details about Britain's National Grid.

The Chinese deal could see state-run nuclear companies involved in more than £10 billion worth of investment. New reactors are need at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Other sites are in Wales, Gloucestershire and possibly Hartlepool.

The Chancellor sees China as the source of huge amounts of cash to kick start a broad range of projects which lack funding from UK plc and other European countries or firms; all of which have been suffering during recent financial crises.

Today's decision highlights the urgent need to get new massive infrastructure projects completed in the UK, but also puts concerns about the Chinese threat to state security under intense scrutiny.

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