Western Morning News, DAVID WILCOCK, 19 March 2008

Nuclear power stations including Hinkley Point in Somerset could fall under foreign ownership after British Energy admitted it was looking at plans which could lead to it selling off some reactors. The firm, which owns ten power stations including Hinkley B, near Bridgwater in West Somerset, has confirmed it is looking for a partner company to buy into it or to take it over completely.

French firm EDF, which has a large base in Exeter, is believed to be among the favourites to buy into the firm after the Government was revealed to be sounding out potential buyers for its 32.5 per cent stake.

There have been fears raised over the idea of a complete sale to a foreign company. Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative MP for Bridgwater, said British Energy was an "extremely good company", and the Government was right to sell its stake, but thought the company should retain a British link.

"The company has been looking for some time to have joint ventures to allow it to move into new build projects," he said.

"Personally, I would prefer a partnership rather than a sale because I would like the company kept British. Hinkley does a good job and British Energy is a good company."

The Unite union yesterday voiced its concern at the idea of foreign ownership of any of the UK 's power stations. Dougie Rooney, its national officer for energy, said: "We believe it would be unwise for the UK Government to sell its controlling share of British Energy to a single company.

"If the Government does sell, we want a consortium of UK and international companies to buy the shares rather than a single company."

British Energy, which runs eight of Britain 's ten nuclear power stations, said in a statement: "The company is in discussions with interested parties in the context of its future and its plans to take a pivotal role in any new nuclear programme."

Anti-nuclear energy campaigners condemned the decision as a way of speeding up the process of building a new generation of nuclear power stations.



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Page Updated 19-Mar-2008