Published on November 28th, 2015

Lawsuit_M2In October, the EU Commission approved state subsidies for the financing of the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in the UK (the above picture shows the Torness nuclear power plant, which is located at the ocean front the same way as Hinkley). Out of the 28 EU Commissioners voting, 16 agreed and five disagreed. Hinkley would be the first new nuclear power plants since the Fukushima disaster. The Austrian government has announced that it will bring an action against this decision before the European Court of Justice.

For environmental and economical reasons, Austria does not agree to approve subsidies for nuclear power. “Nuclear power is not a sustainable form of energy and it is not an option for combating climate change,” said the Austrian Chancellor after the vote. “This is a major setback for a sustainable environmental policy in Europe,” said Elisabeth Köstinger from the Austrian People’s Party ÖVP. Further critics point to “unacceptable market distortions” and “a wrong turn of the EU energy policy”.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia justified the decision for state aid. “Following our intervention, the UK has made significant improvements to limit any distortion of competition.” The Commission also pointed out that each EU country is responsible for selecting its own energy mix. Britain has decided to promote nuclear energy, “and this decision is a state competence”.

The nuclear power plant operator will benefit from a state guarantee, whereby all debts raised on the financial markets for the construction of the nuclear power plant will be covered. It will also benefit from a price support of 35 years.

According to the Commission, the construction costs will be at around € 31.2 billion. The power plant would go into operation in 2023. Its exploitation term is supposed to be 60 years. The two reactors at Hinkley Point will together generate around seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs. Hinkley Point will use a technology that is not yet fully operational. Construction sites with the same technology in France and Finland are faced with substantial delays and cost increases.