UK signs long-awaited Franco-Chinese nuclear project

A US$24-billion deal to build Britain's first new nuclear power station in decades was signed behind closed doors in London on Thursday in a private ceremony.

Journalists were not invited to the event but the government said the contract had been formally signed by Britain's Business Secretary Greg Clark, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and China's National Energy Administration Director Nur Bekri.

Hinkley Point C will now be built in southwest England by France's EDF (EDF.PA) with US$8 billion of cash from China.

The deal - in the works for more than a decade and the first in a series of new nuclear projects in Britain - is part of a recovery of the global nuclear power industry following a slump caused by the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The first of the two new reactors at Hinkley Point is scheduled to be running by the middle of the next decade. Hinkley Point will provide around 7% of Britain's electricity, helping to fill a supply gap as the country's coal plants are set to close by 2025.

China also plans to make a number of investments in British nuclear power, including the building and operating of a new station with EDF at Bradwell-on-Sea, southeast England. Bradwell would be a Chinese-led project, using Chinese reactor technology.