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Austria to launch legal challenge if European Commission approves UK nuclear plans

03 November 2014

Following news in late September that EU antitrust authorities were set to approve UK plans to subsidise the construction of the £16 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset, the Austrian Government has said it will take legal steps to stop the project, which they fear will make renewable energy sources uneconomic.

Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C - Image: EDF
Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C - Image: EDF

EC spokesman Antoine Colombani confirmed that EU state aid regulators will not oppose the support package agreed between the UK Government and French utility EDF to build the plant, the first proposed new nuclear plant to be built in Britain for 30 years. He said the Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, has found in favour of the deal and would propose to the college of commissioners to take a positive decision in this case.

The European Commission has been investigating whether the terms of the subsidy deal struck between energy company EDF and the UK Government constituted illegal state aid. Under the terms of the deal, UK energy consumers could pay EDF and its partners as much as £17.6bn in subsidies over a 35-year period for electricity from the new plant.

The project is a crucial part of the UK’s programme to replace a fifth of its ageing nuclear and coal-fired generating capacity.

Austria's Minister for the Environment, Andra Rupprechter, told the Kurier newspaper: “This scandal has to be fought by all legal means possible.”

Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann sent a letter to the European Commission's president Jose Manuel Barroso in early October saying Austria would take action should the project gain approval in Brussels. "Should the EU Commission undertake this step, then it must expect a lawsuit in the highest courts," Faymann said.

Together with Austria, which has no nuclear power stations, a number of other countries have also expressed concerns that commission approval would undermine the EU’s stated policy to promote solar and wind power.

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