The U.K. government has bought out the Chinese interest in its planned Sizewell C nuclear power plant while taking a 50% stake in the company developing the 3.3- GW pressurized water reactor facility on England's east coast.

Now equally owned by French state controlled utility Electricité de France (EdF) and the U.K. Dept. for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, the Sizewell company will continue developing the project while seeking new backers for the estimated $30-billion project.

The U.K.'s new $815-million investment in the project, announced Nov. 29, includes an undisclosed payoff to Beijing-based China General Nuclear Corp. for its minority stake in the deal. 

That state firm's involvement was part of a 2016 deal securing government approval for the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, now being built by an EdF team. As well as acquiring a roughly 30% share in the Hinkley Point project, China General Nuclear was also offered the prospect of building another plant, the 2.2-GW Bradwell B, using its own HPR1000 reactor design.

However, the political climate has moved against such close partnerships on critical infrastructure, which a former Conservative U.K. prime minister called a "golden age" of Anglo-Chinese relations.

"China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests," said newly named Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak in a recent speech.The U.K. will take "a longer-term view on China, strengthening our resilience and protecting our economic security."

Subject to various approvals, Sizewell C will represent the U.K. government's first direct investment in a nuclear plant since the former state-owned Central Electricity Generating Board built Sizewell B, which started generating in 1995. 

Sizewell B was also the last nuclear plant built in the U.K. until Hinkley Point C. "Sizewell C will build on the achievements of Hinkley Point C and replicating its design, will provide more certainty over schedule and costs," Simone Rossi, EdF Energy CEO, said in a statement.

The Sizewell C announcement "maintains momentum towards a fleet-approach to new nuclear build in the U.K.," notes Christophe Junillon, a senior director of engineering firm, Atkins, a unit of Montreal-based design-build contractor SNC Lavalin Group. "The smooth transfer of learnings and supply chains from Hinkley Point C to Sizewell C will be vital to deliver the project’s cost and efficiency savings.”