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China takes one-third stake in U.K. nuclear project

China vowed Wednesday to finance one third of Britain's first nuclear power plant in decades in a project led by French energy giant EDF confirmed on the second day of President Xi Jinping's state visit.

The blockbuster deal, signed in the presence of Xi and British Prime Minister David Cameron, was announced by EDF in an official statement as London rolls out the red carpet to Chinese investors.

The agreement for the 18-billion pound ($28-billion, 24.5-billion-euro) project, which is scheduled for completion in 2025, is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks, EDF added in a statement.

The French utility will construct two European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs), a third-generation nuclear reactor design considered the most advanced and safest in the world, at the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, southwestern England.

Beijing's state-run China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) will finance 6.0 billion pounds of the sum, with EDF financing the remainder, according to the statement.

"We have all the conditions now in place, subject to final investment approval in the next few weeks, to go ahead with the project," said Vincent de Rivaz, head of EDF's UK arm, in a telephone conference to journalists.

EDF is the lead contractor with an initial stake of 66.5 percent -- which could fall to 50 percent if other investors are brought on board -- while CGN has the remaining 33.5 percent.

The pair also reached agreement on a partnership to develop nuclear power stations at Sizewell, on the eastern English coast in Suffolk, and at Bradwell in Essex, southeastern England.

The Hinkley facility will be not operational until 2025 -- two years later than originally planned when the deal was first unveiled two years ago.

Britain has placed nuclear at the core of its low-carbon energy policy, in contrast to eurozone powerhouse Germany which has pledged to phase out nuclear power after Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The Hinkley project would create over 25,000 jobs and power six million homes, according to Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change. (AFP)