back to article GCHQ to pore over blueprints of Chinese built Brit nuke plants

UK spies will go through the blueprints of computer systems of nuclear plants due to be built by Chinese firms in the UK in a bid to allay security concerns, The Times reports. GCHQ’s role in the assessment was confirmed on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping's four-day state visit to the UK. Security chiefs have …

  1. h4rm0ny
    Joke

    Well if there wasn't spyware in the computer systems before, there will be after!

    1. mythicalduck

      Joking aside, could easily be there before too if they're not looking for "hardware" backdoors

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Someone I used to work with spent time in some fabrication plants checking chip-dies for hardware based backdoors/alterations from design for a UK government entity - I assume the same process still applies.

        AC - well, cos...

        1. Bleu

          GCHQ

          is just miffed that they didn't have a hand in Stuxnet, only a USA-Isael (and possibly German) collaboration.

          So they are desperate to be in on the action next time.

          Observed in the wild far beyond the target, centrifuges in Iran.

          There is a theory that the Fukushima Number 1 disaster was partly due to a Stuxnet infection.

          I will only say that they were running numerical controllers from the same source (Siemens).

          Have no idea, but it would not surprise me.

          Idiotic security breaches in the run-up to that included senior sailors and officers on submarines sharing files, including blueprints, on Winny, National Police Agency police doing the same kind of thing, many more.

          Failsafe mechanisms that should have still been working, even after the wave, at Fukushima Number One failed.

          I am not saying it is so, but there is still a non-zero probability of some idiot plugging an infected USB card or similar into a PC connected with the control systems.

          After all, that is how it worked in Iran (although in that case, there is a strong possibility of treachery in introducing Stuxnet).

          1. HonestAbe

            Re: GCHQ

            Yup. That thirty-foot tsunami was just CGI by the same AFL-CIA team who faked the moon landings. Elvis is the special agent in charge.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: GCHQ

              No. Just no. Tsunami triggered an unforseen sequence of events due to the plant being placed in a previously prior act. If Stuxnet were a significant factor, and this plant design shared with one or more other plants, that would explain the secrecy surrounding the full accident report. Further it would explain why all the other plants were taken offline until just recently.

              I'm not saying this is true or no, just fits some of the behaviors I've been observing. (And exactly who the US sent over nearly immediately. People with similar qualifications to mine).

              1. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: GCHQ

                What secrecy around the full accident report? (I assume you are talking about Fukushima here). AFAIK pretty much everything is out in the open.

              2. Bleu

                Re: GCHQ

                You have good logic.

                Never any leaks from moi, military training, although I think Edward Snowden had good reason to, the things he released showed violations of anything admirable of the US, IMHO.

                Likewise, Bradley Manning, although I was very surprised to see that a 'private first class' is an 'intelligence officer' in the US army of today, the video release was a real public service.

                However, Manning was a serving soldier, I have mixed feelings about the ethicality.

                Snowden was a contractor, but his contract must have included a strict non-disclosure clause.

                I think both were right to do what they did, but it makes me uncomfortable to think about the ethics of the situations.

                One makes a promise, one keeps it.

                All very confusing to me, when thinking seriously.

            2. Bleu

              Re: DishonestAbe

              I said nothing of the kind.

              However, I will not dignify your trolling on behalf of Graceland with any reply other than that fail-safes that should not have failed, even in the face of that wave, did fail, Stuxnet was extremely widespread, the target was numerical controllers from Siemens, and they happened to have a big role at Fukushima Number One.

              All I am saying is that it is not a zero-probability factor.

          2. el_oscuro
            Mushroom

            Re: GCHQ

            Are these guys daft? It will be just like when the Americans let the Soviets build their Moscow embassy. Basically the entire plant will be a bug.

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: GCHQ

              "

              Basically the entire plant will be a bug.

              "

              What would be the point of bugging a power station?

            2. Nigel 11

              Re: GCHQ

              Basically the entire plant will be a bug.

              Spying on what, precisely? The routine operation of a power plant, every last detail of which is already known to the folks who built it?

              I'd be a smidgeon more concerned that it might be possible to command it from outside. However, surely it will be possible to operate the plant even if its internet connection is taken down? (Ideally, there should be an air-gap between a nuke plant's control systems and the internet at all times, not just when the risk of attack is believed to be high).

              And surely they still use simple analog fail-safe systems, since any digital system is prone to glitching? If any key safety parameter goes too far beyond normal safe operating levels a relay de-energises and a cascade of such failsafe switching-off cuts power to the electromagnets from which the control rods are suspended, leading to a reactor shut-down rather than melt-down. (If this is not the case, the design needs to be amended pronto! )

          3. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: GCHQ

            Not a chance Stuxnet had anything to do with it. The problem at Fukushima was the tidal wave knocking out all power to every single indicator, gauge and valve actuator in the reactor system for all 4 reactors. Even if there HAD been a stuxnet infection there simply wasn't a single system still running after the tidal wave for it to have any effect. The hydrogen explosion that followed after the depressurising of reactor 1 was delayed for political/bureaucratic reasons then knocked out what little power and control remained at reactor 2 and 3. Hydrogen from reactor 3 then leaked through a pipe interconnect between the buildings, build up in reactor building 4 and exploded, causing heavy damage to a reactor building containing a reactor that was in cold shutdown. The only reason reactor 2 was spared an explosion was because the power knockout left some vent panels open at the top of the building, allowing the hydrogen to dissipate. Fukushima is a giant clusterfuck of problems, not just in Tepco and the operation of the plant itself but also in the government and organisations in charge of oversight and/or safety. Not to mention crippling Hiroshimasyndrome in the general populous stopping any effect measures being taken now to mittigate the problems.

            1. Bleu

              Re: GCHQ

              Yes, you are an idiot. Can't even spell 'populace'.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: GCHQ

            That would not surprise me at all. Catastrophic failures and systems placed in a hitherto unknown state are for all practical purposes synonymous. I've got yet another tell all in the hopper to read. I just wish I could pull down the classified version as I used to. Then I got the bonehead and the boneheaded action that resulted in a "No? Duh!" Oh well.

            There's something more there....

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Bleu

      I can not understand

      If the UK is so incompetent, that they have to call on France for a design, and China to build it?

      Why not call for Hitachi, proven experience with engineering with engineering for 'Nukular' reactors, piping etc.

      In the end, I have to agree with commentors on other sites, the real reason is try to draw China into western orbit.

      News flash: it will not work.

  2. Vimes

    Personally I'd be more worried about the involvement of EDF...

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-nuclear-strategy-faces-meltdown-as-faults-are-found-in-identical-french-project-10186163.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11662889/Faulty-valves-in-new-generation-EPR-nuclear-reactor-pose-meltdown-risk-inspectors-warn.html

  3. StephenTompsett

    Presumably they will also inspect everything supplied by Americans, French and indeed everyone else, with the same diligence?

    1. Bc1609

      Re: presumably they will also inspect...

      I suspect they examine code for critical infrastructure regardless of its source, but that their involvement is being announced in this case in response to lowing from the press. Usually I'd be most worried about the French (who, of all the developed nations, have probably the worst reputation when it comes it industrial sabotage and espionage), but given that we already have an ICT to their grid any damage there is probably already done.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would expect so. Indeed I would expect the same level of scrutiny of any British contribution (if there was any) as well. They need to confirm the absence of security weaknesses, however caused - including plain dumb design/implemenetation.

    3. John Savard Silver badge

      China is a nation known to be hostile to the West, one that keeps political prisoners and suppresses dissent. There is no reason to expect that France and the United States are planning to make war on the United Kingdom.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        cold war crap

        The US probably would make war on Airstrip One if Airstrip One ever tried to get rid of all those US military bases and assert its independence from the US.

        Seriously, though, "hostile to the West" is a meaningless expression and in any case has nothing to do with "keeps political prisoners and suppresses dissent". Many of the UK's and the US's best allies do exactly that.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: cold war crap

          "

          "keeps political prisoners and suppresses dissent". Many of the UK's and the US's best allies do exactly that.

          "

          The US and UK both suppress dissent, and the US prison camp in Cuba is populated with many political prisoners being held indefinitely without trial.

        2. Ossi

          Re: cold war crap

          Well, he might have been speaking a bit hastily by saying 'hostile to the west', but it doesn't make it an unreasonable point. Think about where China has points of conflict: Taiwan, the South China Sea, Japan. In each case, the other side is a US ally. China knows full well that in any conflict that pulled in the US, or even just a US ally, the UK and the West in general is highly unlikely to take the Chinese side. Do you think France, for example, is an equivalent position?

          "The US probably would make war on Airstrip One if Airstrip One ever tried to get rid of all those US military bases and assert its independence from the US."

          Yes, I'm sure you're right. I'm just struggling to think of any examples to support this rather strong conclusion, at least since the end of the Cold War. Could you help my memory a little?

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >There is no reason to expect that France ... are planning to make war on the United Kingdom.

        I thought war with France was the sole reason for our nuclear deterent ?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "China is a nation known to be hostile to the West,"

        I think you have got this backwards.

        China has lost face because the most economically successful parts of China are Hong Kong and Shanghai - both of which turn out to have benefited from foreign rule.

        China wants to show that it can be economically successful in the UK, with infrastructure, mechanical and electronics products (Huawei), thus doing with us what we did with Hong Kong. If the UK is economically successful with Chinese input, this will restore face.

    4. Bleu

      Yes please!

      They might start with the Trident missiles and firing systems.

      I appear to have been mistaken in an earlier post, the mega-death dealing bombs (nuclear warheads) are supposedly still UK-made, I find it hard to believe that. I suspect they are really made in the USA, with token UK supervision and knowledge for a fig-leaf.

      I think that on the Reg., only Lewis Page is fit to answer that, but whether it is allowed or not by the law, I do not know.

      My own spell of military service, I resigned because of our closeness to nuclear war plans. Never made it to Kapitan, would be much better off if I had, my mother hates me for it, but I think it was the right choice.

      Not so good in cash terms. Just did not want to participate in plans for mass-murder.

      1. Ian 55

        Re: Yes please!

        The UK had Polaris / has Trident mostly in order to guarantee that the US will be nuked if they are ever used* and so the US has a very good reason to ensure - via its conventional troops etc - that the UK never feels threatened enough to do so.

        So of course the US would like to stop the UK even having the possibility of wiping out Moscow. If that means that, as with the early years of Polaris, the submarine-based nuclear weapons don't actually work, then great.

        * If Moscow disappears in a radioactive cloud, the Russians are not going to go 'Well, it was probably just the British, we'll just wipe them out and leave the US alone because no way would it be them...'

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes please!

        "I suspect they are really made in the USA, with token UK supervision and knowledge for a fig-leaf."

        Can anybody confirm that on the side of the warheads, next to the UL sticker, is a notice that reads "Assembled in the UK. Covered by one or more US patents. May contain nuts."?

  4. sysconfig

    Maybe a stupid question...

    ...but why not build British-built nuclear plants in Britain then? (Okay, a lot of "British" in this sentence, just to bring the point home :) )

    It doesn't get much more sensitive and dangerous... Can't we do it ourselves, or do we accept the risk simply because it's cheaper to let them build it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe a stupid question...

      I'd suppose because the last plants we built were built almost 50 years ago and we don't have the skills, hardware know how, plans or IP required to build a modern nuclear plant. That would be my guess. So if we did it ourselves it would cost far more, take far longer and likely be an inferior product.

      1. Smooth Newt

        Re: Maybe a stupid question...

        Well, the Chinese had to start somewhere when it came to building reactors, and the British could as well. I expect it has more to do with who is coughing up the money, plus the Chinese government does actually promote engineering whereas the British government have spent the last 50 years promoting the financial sector instead. Hence we have plenty of bankers, but hardly any engineers.

      2. Bleu

        Re: Maybe a stupid question...

        You may well be right, I think

        you are wrong.

        Chinese company was engaged because it is cheaper than to *train* people at home.

        Many political leaders in China are engineers, why not?

        In Japan, we have too many lawyers in politics (although their social standing and economic situation are very different to the west, qualification is through examinations, many of the failed revolutionaries of 45 years ago, many others since, choose law or para-legal, unless you are wanting to be appointed to the Napoleonic-style tribunals that are called courts, or be a judge, all you have to do is study and pass an exam) and professional politicians, but most companies are still run by people with a background in what the company *does*. If they are making games, a former game designer, if they are making tech, a programmer or engineer.

        In UK, from what I see, management is all from rubbish studies, no exam law, arts ('humanities' or 'liberal arts', depending on place, nothing to do with 'art'), or even 'management studies', anything but the industry concerned.

        USA is similar, with the few major companies founded by techies, but how many of them are still under techie control?

        When Fiorina was ruining Hewlett and Packard's legacy, did anybody stop to think that she was a cretin when it came to technology?

        I could continue, but will add, for the sake of human rights, that the career choice, other than legal or paralegal, of those who disagreed with Japan's imperialistic adventures, was teaching. They are good teachers.

        The campaign to force them to do things they do not want to do has been running hotly for years, it is a great shame that the deprivation of rights for many Japanese schoolteachers is not recognised internationally.

    2. detritus

      Re: Maybe a stupid question...

      I came here to post pretty much this.

      NukularNRG is one domain I really do believe should stay nationalised and under the direct aegis and investment of the government or whatever subGovernmental body's best up to the task, and if none exists, make one.

      How on Earth Britain squandered decades worth of knowledge and world-leading development only to end up with a mere reprocessing capability, I don't know.

      All power to the French and Chinese, of course - it just saddens me beyond belief how ineffectual and lacking in self-belief our governments have been.

      Sickens ye.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Maybe a stupid question...

        "How on Earth Britain squandered decades worth of knowledge and world-leading development only to end up with a mere reprocessing capability, I don't know."

        Stupidity at all levels from Green & CND activists to the top of govt for several decades. Especially a predilection for having non-scitech graduates as senior civil servants and MPs.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Maybe a stupid question...

      "It doesn't get much more sensitive and dangerous... "

      Sensitive, yes

      Dangerous, no.

      The UK suffered an explosion the size of a small nuclear bomb in the early 1970's. It was called Flixborough.

      ". Can't we do it ourselves,"

      Not since the Thatcher government decreed the UK would abandon Advanced Gas Cooled work and buy in PWRs from that nice Westinghouse company (now owned by Toshiba, but they keep the name as the Americans get hot under the collar discovering they are owned by 'furriners).

      The only UK reactor programme left is the Rolls Royce one that builds the reactors for Navy reactors.

      Ironically the US dominance of this design is due to the fact the USN footed the whole development bill for it, so Westinghouse could sell it (relatively) cheaply and still come out with a shedload of profit, once they'd scaled it up to land power plant levels (about 10x bigger)

      Both designs had major faults but PWR (mandatory enriched Uranium supply needed + 300c, 200atm water are not design pluses) basically the only design left standing with a supplier base in place.

      Yay for the free market and the engineering smarts of the British Senior Civil Servant (: .

      1. Bleu

        Re: Maybe a stupid question...

        Very amusing if Toshiba really owns Westinghouse now.

        Kind of a reversal of Sony, where the competent tech. divisions are run by Sony, but the media acquisitions are the poisoned chalice.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Maybe a stupid question...

          "Very amusing if Toshiba really owns Westinghouse now."

          IIRC it was that smirking nuppit Blair that allowed that to happen.

    4. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Maybe a stupid question...

      @sysconfig

      As one who witnessed on site the shambles that was the Dungeness B construction,I would answer your question, "Can't we do it ourselves?" as "No, we can't".

      An engineer there told me how he had been diverted to South Korea. In two years they turned a green field into a working power station. Then he got back to Dungeness. The only difference he saw was that there was more dust on various half built bits.

    5. hplasm Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Maybe a stupid question...

      Because the asylum is run by accountants and lawyers.

    6. iranu

      Re: Maybe a stupid question...

      Ask Gordon Brown.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      >Because the City cannot raise funds

      Well, the Chinese got involved because EDF couldn't raise the money itself either and even the Chinese are worried about their investment, to the extent that the UK Governmment has underwritten it. Even though the operating costs are already largely underwritten. Maybe they should have just underwritten UK investment in the first place (or given up on nuclear power like just about everyone else).

      1. g e

        Have been watching all of Spooks on Netflix recently

        Everything like this seems to creepily recall at least one episode in one way or another...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe they should have just underwritten UK investment in the first place

        With what? The same unfunded, cashless promises that underwrite all the other commitments that the UK bunglement has made over the years?

        Because our idiot, idiot politicians signed free trade agreements without caveating them with a requirement for a balance of trade, the West has got progressively poorer in cash terms (fundamentally wrapped up as accumulated private sector debt, made worse by government deficit spending). Meanwhile, having exported but not imported China has foreign exchange reserves approaching four trillion dollars. It could spend that imports stuff from the West, but prefers to invest it in assets - so rather than buy Jaguars off the UK, they'd rather buy what will be the most expensive power station in the history of the world, and then collect rent off us forever.

  6. J J Carter Silver badge
    Big Brother

    PLA Unit 61398 calling

    All back-doors very inscrutible, you not find.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PLA Unit 61398 calling

      "All back-doors very inscrutible, you not find."

      I suspect that the English skills of the PLA unit concerned are better than yours. But then I've worked with Chinese engineers.

  7. RosslynDad
    WTF?

    Blueprint?

    I really need to brush up my software development skills: is there a course I can go on to learn how to "pore over software blueprints"?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Blueprint?

      If you find one, please let me know. I'm itching to use my coding pencil, flowcharting template and copy of the 1966 FORTRAN standard.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Blueprint?

      My experience of software QA was that they never looked at actual code, just at minutes of meetings and the various signing-off documents.

    3. Fibbles
      Coat

      Re: Blueprint?

      A software blueprint is what you get when you print source code and the ink-jet is running low on magenta and yellow.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Blueprint?

        Unless you have one of those inkjets that refuses to print a B&W document because its low on magenta...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blueprint?

      "is there a course I can go on to learn how to "pore over software blueprints"?"

      I once went for a job interview at a mechanical engineering company that was dipping a toe in computer controlled instrumentation.

      The programs were documented on flowcharts drawn by draughtsmen on A0 sheets because that was what fitted the document archive. A single code point change could take weeks to implement. That's what I call firmware.

      Did not get job, should not have laughed when shown flowcharts.

    5. ritey

      Re: Blueprint?

      If it involves GCHQ then you can bet you bottom dollar blue refers to some kind of porno.

  8. goldcd

    Hold on

    If we've got the expertise to understand, review and spot flaws in this stuff - why do we need the Chinese in the first place?

    1. Fibbles

      Re: Hold on

      Scapegoats when it goes titsup / massively over-budget.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on

      > why do we need the Chinese in the first place?

      To pay for it, because good old Blighty can't built an infrastructure project funded by government cash without it turning into a quagmire of NIMBYism.

      We've so far failed to build a high speed train line for 20 years, and the bits which may actually help are unlikely to ever be built. Apparently it's "difficult and expensive". The Japanese managed to build more high speed rail in a densely populated, mountainous, earthquake zone, 20 years ago ... Building a train line from London to Birmingham to - difficult my arse.

      The British public are just too cheap to view infrastructure investment as worthwhile.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hold on

        The British public are just too cheap to view infrastructure investment as worthwhile.

        The money (or rather debt) is there, the technical vision on the part of government is lacking. So there's money and technology to build Crossrail, to speed wealthy Thames Valley commuters to the City. There was money to divert Eurostar from Waterloo to less convenient destination. But no money to build a proper high speed route under London to link HS2 and HS1, or to overcome the idiocy of London's Victorian plutocracy, who insisted that the railways stations must not come anywhere near the centre. Even when government did waste £2bn tunnelling under London for HS1, it was some vacuous Blairite scheme to route it all round the @rse end of London to buy votes, and then bring it into the poorly connected St Pancras - even less convenient for the City than Waterloo, but equally unsuitable for everybody else unless they want to go to Derby.

        In the case of nuclear, they're continuing in the madcap scheme to buy the unproven and expensive EPR, and at the same time offering money to Toshiba to build a different design at "Moorside" (the toxic dump formerly known as Windscale, Sellafield, and before that Calder Hall). So we incur vast debts but won't even get standardisation.

  9. JHC_97

    Sigh in one sentence DC is calling JC a security risk in the next he is allowing the Chinese to build nuclear reactors in the UK. Oh and the reason DC can't use a British company probably has something to do with the loan he refused to the British company that makes the cores, unlike these entirely independent chinese companies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Sigh in one sentence DC is calling JC a security risk"

      That is just because the Conservatives are advised by far right wingers with links to the Republicans and are using the same methods they used to attack Obama. It has nothing to do with George Osborne's economic theory, which is, basically, "Chinese have lots of money, let's see if we can get some of it by flogging off the country to them."

      The Conservatives seem to have adopted Clause 4 after Labour abandoned it, except that it now reads

      "The (Chinese) State will own the means of production, distribution and exchange."

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good news, everyone!!

    Forget about who is building them and who's going to be spying on what, great news is that more nuclear power plants are to be built.

    Any further info on the technology? Thorium / pebble bed etc or is it still 'old' nuclear tech designed with an eye to create waste that is usable for weapons rather than using waste from other plants as fuel?

    1. detritus

      Re: Good news, everyone!!

      Still the old crappy Gen III reactors with all the waste thereof.

      Perhaps we'll get lucky with new nuclear and find a way to extract all the radioactive nastiness out of our waste, but I'd much prefer to see a once capable national nuclear development capability focus on Gen III+ and new Nuclear instead of simply strapping on old, expensive tech whose funding mostly leaves our country.

      But what the hey, our government's too focused on the city and selling property overseas to invest in its own future.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

        I think you'll find it's foreign "investors" buying vacant property in London this government is so keen to attract.

        Who cares if they make housing unaffordable anywhere in London?

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

          "Who cares if they make housing unaffordable anywhere in London?"

          Bollocks to London.

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

            "Bollocks to London."

            T-shirt please!

        2. detritus

          Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

          "Who cares if they make housing unaffordable anywhere in London?"

          I dunno if you're being sarcastic, but — Me.

          I live in the damned place and am trying really hard to make a business work here.

          .

          But yes, abstractedly, who indeed does care?

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

            "I dunno if you're being sarcastic, but — Me."

            I was, and I do.

            It's inevitable that once these rich f**kers price each other out of the market they'll start eyeing up other parts of Britain to buy empty houses in.

            Note this is nothing to do with need. These bankers/gangsters/"entrepreneurs" are doing quite nicely in their own countries. What they want is a bolt hole in case the local elites they pay off start charging too much for them to carry out their "business." (or the people actually manage to depose them).

            I might speculate that there are whole London housing developments where, if you got the cleaning and security staff out, you could blow it to pieces and there would be no casualties as no human actually lives in them.

            Not that I'm suggesting this of course.

            "But yes, abstractedly, who indeed does care?"

            Only those making a profit.

            For whatever piece of policy is being decided always ask "Quo bono?"

            1. Pig Dog Bay

              Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

              Cui Bono

              Now write it out 100 times or I'll cut your balls off.

        3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

          That's why we need Trident, to protect all the Russian billionaires living in London from the threat of Russian nukes ....

          Nurse - Is it time for my medicine ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "selling property overseas to invest in its own future."

            "That's why we need Trident, to protect all the Russian billionaires living in London"

            And they live there because, according to several recent reports, not only is London the money laundering capital of the world but we have large numbers of well paid bent lawyers anxious to grease the wheels of the laundry machine.

            I wonder if anybody in government has considered that there might be very good reasons why the Russian government would like a few words with some of these people?

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Good news, everyone!!

      still 'old' nuclear tech designed with an eye to create waste that is usable for weapons

      The plutonium produced in a standard PWR or BWR is not really suitable for making a weapon as it contains way too much PU-240. Only with a lot of processing can it be turned into a usable weapons grade material. A country that has the knowhow to do that likely has the knowhow to build a processing reactor specifically to enrich U-235 in a way that produces high grade plutonium to begin with.

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Good news, everyone!!

      "Any further info on the technology? Thorium / pebble bed etc or is it still 'old' nuclear tech ..."

      Thorium / pebble bed IS old nuclear tech - we had one of those over here some 30 years ago, never really lived up to the expectations. Looked pretty neat on paper though.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Good news, everyone!!

        Obligatory:

        https://www.youtube.com/embed/q0hIsLCbDq0?vndapp=youtube_mobile&vndclient=mv-google&vndel=watch&vnddnc=1

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Word is the codename for this one is Operation Budget Justification.

    AC... not that that will help.

  12. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hardly surprising...

    ...when you contract two nationalised industries to build the plant. What we need is a government that believes in the sanctity of the market over cossetted state-owned concerns.

    Oh...!

    1. Someone_Somewhere

      Re: Hardly surprising...

      I'm glad you said that - I've been waiting for the opportunity to suggest that, if we can't beat them, we might as well engage in the alternative approach of infiltrating and taking over.*

      Since everything seems to be for sale, perhaps we could tender out (outsource) our government to a third party.** Got to be worth a try, surely.

      --

      *Thereby taking a leaf out of the book written by the (notably successful) entryist extremists running the country.

      **Apparently the government of Iceland saved shedloads of public money by jailing their bankers rather than rewarding them for fucking up their economy - perhaps we could give them a chance for five years in 2020.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    GCHQ to scour code for backdoors, eh?

    Takes one to know one.

    'Nuff said.

  14. codejunky Silver badge

    About time too

    "Separately, the nuclear deal with China was criticised by a group of 21 British scientists and academics who have written to The Times to accuse the government of embarking on a “slash and burn” policy towards renewable energy in order to fund nuclear power stations"

    Maybe ditch the Co2 targets too and get our power plants back online. Maybe then energy will be cheaper and the steel mills will have one less (valid) argument to close down.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: About time too

      a “slash and burn” policy towards renewable energy in order to fund nuclear power stations

      So there's something positive coming out of this, then?

    2. Killing Time

      Re: About time too

      "Separately, the nuclear deal with China was criticised by a group of 21 British scientists and academics who have written to The Times to accuse the government of embarking on a “slash and burn” policy towards renewable energy in order to fund nuclear power stations"

      Who knows? Perhaps the esteemed group missed the 'gravy train' that is the PV generation and feed in tariffs and it's just sour grapes.

      Both technologies are CO2 lite and we as the end users are financing both. The differentiating factor being that you have, and have had an opportunity of a 10% tax free ROI with PV but nothing when your money goes to finance nukes. The change will make no impact on the running of existing power plants, only the energy market will do that.

      Article Correction - the big tariff reduction is coming on Jan 1st not last August, there's still time before it leaves the station.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About time too

        and have had an opportunity of a 10% tax free ROI with PV but nothing when your money goes to finance nukes.

        Actually, its the same. DECC promise obscene payments of £90/MWh for Hinkley Point C, and until the end of this year they've been paying about £140/MWh for solar. In both cases the investor benefits at the expense of all other electricity users. The Hinkley Point costs are totally unwarranted, and DECC are backing the failing and over-priced EPR technology, but at least a modern nuke plant should get about 90% load factor with scheduled outages, and can run all through the winter peaks. Solar generates most electricity when prices are lowest, so we're paying 14p/kWh to PV owners for electricity when the wholesale market value is about 2p/kWh, and as a knock on effect it forces mid-merit plant to operate intermittently, so that modern CCGTs are being downgraded to OCGT, reducing thermal efficiency from say 65% to low 50s.

        Generously rewarding PV as a generation source in a cloudy country situated on the top surface of the globe must go down as one of the most stupid ideas ever conceived by a British government, and that's saying something, given the epic infrastructure, investment, industrial and foreign policy fails they have to choose from.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: About time too

          >Generously rewarding PV ... must go down as one of the most stupid ideas ever conceived by a British government

          Not if you think of it as MIRAS with a new greener coating.

          Giving homeowners money for nothing, paid for by charging OAPs and poor renters more for leccy is frankly brilliant.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All your base are berong to us!

    IJGMC...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "You make one liddle ellor in equarity sign, grasshopper!"

  16. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Devil

    "On uncomputable numbers and the Hintereingangstürproblem"

    We demonstrably need computational powers about the partial-recursive functions.

    BRING ME AN ORACLE!

  17. Andy Network

    National infrastructure projects

    Why are so many national infrastructure projects being farmed out to foreign countries?

    National Infrastructure where possible should use UK labour and companies, that way there are more people in work, and more tax coming in to cover the additional costs.

    Instead, we farm them out to the lowest bidder, then have to pay to have the designs checked to make sure they are not designing in flaws/backdoors, and having to shut down steel mills in the UK, as we are buying steel from China for projects such as this and HS2.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: National infrastructure projects

      Possible answers:

      1) Absence of imperial stamina: Because the british empire is long gone

      2) Economics: They can do it cheaper

      3) Warren Buffet economics: We are rich in imaginary wealth and so seem to be able to pay

      4) Risk: They are ready to do it at all

      5) Critical mass of knowledge: Local know-how has dried up

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: National infrastructure projects

        "2) Economics: They can do it cheaper"

        Maybe they can get something off the ground quicker and a bit cheaper than a domestic company could, BUT:

        - Once up and running, the operation then begins to suck profits out of economy to the foreign investor, and this continues for decades.

        - We STILL pay to underwrite the initial build, subsidide the ongoing operation, and underwrite the eventual decom.

        Sorry, I really don't get the long term economic or any other gain here.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: National infrastructure projects @AC

          Omitted the fact that because the UK government is keen not to pay anything upfront and have the construction financed by the Chinese, the price the UK pays for electricity from these plants has been further inflated as it will include interest repayments on the capital needed to build them and operate them until such time as they break even (after 30~40 years); at which point the profit extraction can commence.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: National infrastructure projects @AC

            "Omitted the fact that because the UK government is keen not to pay anything upfront and have the construction financed by the Chinese, the price the UK pays for electricity from these plants has been further inflated as it will include interest repayments on the capital needed to build them and operate them until such time as they break even (after 30~40 years); at which point the profit extraction can commence."

            Welcome to the PPP electricity grid.

            Just like the PPP hospitals and PPP schools.

            Something you're grand kids can tell you.

            "Grandpappy, we finally paid the ba**ards off."

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: National infrastructure projects

          "Sorry, I really don't get the long term economic or any other gain here."

          No worries - the gain will be there. 'There' being someplace other than the UK, of course.

          Or as my stock broker once said: "Your money isn't 'gone' - someone else has it now!"

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: National infrastructure projects

      Because people living in Britain would starve if they were paid the same amount as the Chinese workers will get paid.

      It's a choice, you can live in a nice country with a high standard of living, or you can live somewhere with a cheap workforce.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: National infrastructure projects

        >would starve if they were paid the same amount as the Chinese workers will get paid.

        Because the one thing you want starving peasants just arrived form the farm to be doing is building your nuclear reactor.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: National infrastructure projects

        Don't worry, when there was the debate about enforcing "The Living Wage" recently there was a business representative (think he was from the CBI) whining that they have to compete with wages in India and China, a clear indication on which way they want UK Wages to go.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: National infrastructure projects

      @ Andy Network

      "National Infrastructure where possible should use UK labour and companies, that way there are more people in work, and more tax coming in to cover the additional costs."

      Because if we mandate British labour they will be on strike until their pay is doubled and the working hours reduced to half days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: National infrastructure projects

        "Because if we mandate British labour they will be on strike until their pay is doubled and the working hours reduced to half days."

        I am not so sure that Nissan, Honda, Sony and RR would agree with you. Just because you are (presumably) a crap manager who can't get people to work for you, doesn't mean that other companies are not rather good at it.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      To correct you're sentence......

      "Why are so many British national infrastructure projects being farmed out to foreign countries?

      FTFY.

      Basically because the UK does not include a "Use local labor" metric in the scorecard it uses to decide which bid is "best" when they advertise in the EU Journal.

      Hence the reason (IIRC) why a big order of tube trains (or was it mainline trains) was built in Germany.

      You may not be be too surprised to learn that other countries use different rules when bidding out their infrastructure projects.

  18. M Bargo
    Unhappy

    The sad fact is we haven't the brains or the balls to build a single nuclear power station, despite the obvious and pressing need for a whole set of them.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This

    will only end badly...One way or another.

    We don't need the Chinese (nothing against them, love rice*) to "help" build our NPSs, we are, have been, will continue to be able to build our own...

    *to all politically correct wet lettuces on here, &%^% you..

  20. IanRS
    FAIL

    Examining the designs is step 1...

    ... but checking that the implementation matches the design is a far more worthwhile step two!

  21. john devoy

    Cameron and Osborne are selling the UK out to the Chinese, the UK is going to underwrite costs with a guaranteed market price, and no doubt we will foot the clean up bill...so what the hell are the Chinese bringing to this? other than potential jobs for a few bent politicians when they leave office?

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. 45RPM Silver badge

    Gotta love the way our government is opposed to state ownership - except, apparently, when the state isn't ours. We can't be trusted with our own infrastructure, apparently, but other countries (even ones which could conceivably harbour less than beneficial intentions) can.

    It's especially infuriating in fields which we invented. Railways, nuclear, telecoms, high speed flight. We're really good at this shit - so why not invest in our indigenous capability - and sell it instead of buying it from others?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "We're really good at this shit"

      Increasingly the tense is wrong. Try "we were".

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        I'm not sure that the tense is wrong. We still have brilliant physicists. Brilliant engineers. Brilliant people of all disciplines. Maybe some have gone abroad - but they'd come back with the right incentives.

        The only stumbling block is our spineless bumbling wally politicians.

    2. Wensleydale Cheese
      WTF?

      The electricity sell-off

      "Gotta love the way our government is opposed to state ownership - except, apparently, when the state isn't ours."

      This.

      Not only did our electricity get sold off, but it got sold off to the French State.

      How We Happened to Sell Off Our Electricity - James Meek

  24. harmjschoonhoven
    WTF?

    Nothing to be seen here

    The Chinese and French Hinkley's owners will get a guaranteed price for the electricity generated, subsidized by the British consumers.

  25. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    At the end of the 1960's the UK had...

    An independent AGR nuclear programme.

    Independent space launch through Black Arrow

    Nuclear weapons (launched on US supplied missiles).

    A 100 seat supersonic transport ready to go into passenger service.

    In 2015 the UK has

    Nuclear weapons (launched on US supplied missiles) and a £20Bn+ replacement cost.

    The UK abandoned the rest. :(

    But you can still flash fry Moscow on a few minutes notice.

    So F**king What?

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: At the end of the 1960's the UK had...

      @John Smith 19

      Yup. We got rid of the stuff that we can use, and we kept the stuff that we can't. We could be a global superpower again - not in terms of land, of course, but in terms of influence and value - if we had great technology and owned our own infrastructure. Sadly, that would require bravery and a greater degree of selflessness from our politicians. Actually, perhaps not even selflessness - merely the ability to resist the temptation to rapaciously line their own pockets at the expense of the country's greater good.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
      Pint

      Re: At the end of the 1960's the UK had...

      "A 100 seat supersonic transport ready to go into passenger service."

      Substancial french involvement there too, IIRC. Lots of books on project management mention the Concorde programme because, uh - well, you know ...

      Pint is for Brian Trepshaw.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: At the end of the 1960's the UK had...

        D'ya reckon he'd have forgone the pint in favour of his name being spelled correctly?

        I believe he preferred "Brian Trubshaw". And at least he's been spared the sellout cockup that is 21st Century Britain

  26. xeroks

    Technically capable

    My suspicion is that awarding this to China is simply recognition that the UK is unable to get its shit together.

    We can have all the technically capable people in the world, but if they are managed by the incapable, or politically motivated, then the usual results follow.

  27. sYncRo

    Recipe For Disaster

    The thought of Chinese quality and Nuclear power stations, sends shivers down my back!

  28. Ed Mozley

    cpni.gov.uk

    I thought this kind of thing was already covered by these guys

    cpni.gov.uk

  29. TheWeenie

    They missed a trick

    Maybe they should get Foxconn to build these new power stations. I mean, they glue iPhones together and people seem to be quite happy with those.

    Just make sure you don't hold the fuel rods the wrong way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They missed a trick

      "Just make sure you don't hold the fuel rods the wrong way."

      There is a right way?

    2. Someone_Somewhere

      Re: They missed a trick

      Surely you mean ATOS, no?

      They have absolutely no business being involved in the particular business in question, so that makes them the perfect candidate in the UK.

  30. Slx

    When you look at the 1980s Britian basically de industrialised.

    There's a lot of engineering and technology expertise lost. I'm not sure that the uk coils build AGR now as I'm not sure that kind of heavy engineering skill set exists anymore.

    I'd prefer to see a UK-French cooperation on this though. I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of depending on a non-democratic authoritarian state which has massive human rights issues and doesn't think twice about just erecting a state-wide extreme firewall to oppress political communication that it doesn't like.

    1. Someone_Somewhere

      "I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of depending on a non-democratic authoritarian state which has massive human rights issues and doesn't think twice about just erecting a state-wide extreme firewall to oppress political communication that it doesn't like."

      You'll be pleased to leard that the UK will not be involved in the project then.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        "A truly international field - no Britons involved"

        - David Coleman

  31. fighne
    WTF?

    Why?

    This is utter madness, in so many ways.

    1. the original focus/push for Uranium based nuclear power stations was to produce fissile nuclear material for nuclear bombs. - think we have enough of that and a problem getting rid of it!?

    2. the Chinese government is investing is a molten salt based nuclear reactor - reason being it produces more energy from the nuclear fuel (Uranium based systems only extract 5-7% of the energy ) is safer 1/10,000th less nuclear waste and you can shut these things down for the weekend!

    So which system are we using? The Uranium based system. You couldn't make a worse set of decisions even if you decided everything by the toss of a coin.

  32. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    For those interested in nuclear reactor design a few points to ponder.

    Big cost drivers include.

    Conventional gas/oil/coal reactors run steam around 550c/160atm. PWR run about 300c but 200atm.

    Building reactors that match conventional power stations means you can buy conventional steam turbine/generator packages from the suppliers, rather than special PWR ones. That was the thinking behind the AGR's. It's still a good idea.

    Very large pressure vessels, like an AGR are known tech but need a lot of concrete and reinforcing steel.

    Using a lot of steel in the core mandates enriched fuel, which multiplies costs and proliferation problems. Not an issue when the launch customer for Westinghouse had the only enriched fuel supply on the planet

    Likewise anything whose mfg process begins with "First, discard all other isotopes of element X" guarantees a slow, low volume, high cost production cycle. That's the case for certain designs using Nitride fuel. Zirconium would be a good nuclear engineering material (low neutron cross section) but it's always found with Hafnium (high cross section) making it a PITA to get rid of the Hafnium (very chemically similar)

    The machining and mfg of structural graphite, carbon fibre and reinforced carbon carbon (mostly used in aircraft brake pads) has greatly improved since the last AGR was built, as has the CFD and CAE techniques to predict the shape changes under thermal stress and irradiation. Fibre can be made which is 20-40x better at heat conduction along it's axis than common brands.

    Coolant pumps are a major PITA in cost and maintenance.

    Inert coolants are better (although superheated water is very reactive, yet people seem to manage that). CO2 was OK but you store a lot of energy in compressed gas (especially when the volume is the size of a small house). Sodium and Sodium/Potassium is the Physicists choice. Chemical engineers consider it idiotically dangerous to use (they're right). Lead sounds nasty but is actually not bad. Bismuth is 10x as expensive and decays to the intense Alpha emitter Polonium (as do most isotopes of Lead). Adding enough Bismuth to let it run below the freezing point of Polonium would let you "plate out" the Polonium in a controlled way.

    Control rod drive motors run $1m each.

    Uranium Oxide is a very poor conductor of heat, giving very highly stressed fuel pellets. Carbides and Nitrides are 10x better but could dissolve in seawater. A problem for submarine nuclear reactors (the original use of PWRs). For anything sitting on land (IE 99% of all PWRs), not so much.

    Reactors mfg don't make their profit selling reactors. Like Gillette they make it on the consumables IE the fuel rods. Any new design should keep that in mind.

    So for low cost reactors you want..

    Unenriched fuel.

    Low pressures for minimal pressure vessel mass

    High temperatures to generate conventional power plant condition steam.

    Gravity feeding to eliminate pumps (believed feasible up to 400MW electric)

    Minimum number of control rods in core or moderator outside the core (like the Toshiba 3S design).

    Existing knowledge base from either the nuclear or other industries that can raise the TRL and get you started with less risk.

    I'll leave others to ponder what directions those requirements would drive a clean sheet design toward.

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