UK government 'concerned for national security' over EDF's deal to buy GE nuclear unit

Rishi Sunak's Cabinet has imposed a strict set of security requirements on the companies

An EDF-owned nuclear power plant in France. The company has been ordered to meet UK security requirements after it signed a deal to buy GE's nuclear turbine business. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

The British government has raised national security concerns over the French state-owned company EDF's deal to buy General Electric's nuclear turbine business.

Last November, an agreement was signed for EDF’s purchase of GE Steam Power’s nuclear activities. This included the manufacture of equipment for new nuclear power plants and maintenance of existing sites in all regions other than the Americas.

The bid was given the go-ahead by Britain’s antitrust regulator in May 2023 after an initial investigation.

The Cabinet Office in London issued a statement on Monday expressing concern over the agreement and outlining a list of conditions.

Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, has issued a final order on EDF's deal to buy the unit via a subsidiary called GEAST UK, saying all parties must meet certain criteria including to “implement governance arrangements to protect sensitive information”.

“The Secretary of State considers that a risk to national security will arise because of the critical national security and defence capabilities relating to naval propulsion systems which are delivered through (the GE unit),” the government said.

Mr Dowden’s order requires the signatories to meet security requirements, set up a system to protect sensitive data, and “maintain capacity and capability in respect of critical Ministry of Defence programmes in the UK.”

The firms have also been told that a government-appointed board observer must be placed on the board of GEAST UK, and a steering committee set up to provide oversight of compliance with security standards.

The government considers that the order is “necessary and proportionate to mitigate the risk to national security”.

EDF declined to comment and GE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated: August 08, 2023, 10:32 AM