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09/12/2016

Austria will sue if EU regulator clears UK nuclear plant plan

Energy

Austria will sue if EU regulator clears UK nuclear plant plan

Anti-power plant protesters. Hinkley Point, 2011 [CND/Flickr]

Austria will take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if the executive approves Britain’s plans for €20.4 billion nuclear power plant, a spokesman for the country’s chancellor said on Sunday.

A deal to pay a guaranteed price for the power produced in the plant faces opposition from some EU policymakers, who want to overturn approval from the top European regulator. A vote is expected on Wednesday (8 October).

The project, to be built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in south-west England, is crucial for Britain’s plan to replace a fifth of its ageing nuclear power and coal plants over the coming decade while reducing carbon emissions. France sees it as a major export contract that will boost its nuclear industry.

But Chancellor Werner Faymann and Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner sent a letter to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Friday saying Austria would “reserve” the right to take legal steps should the project gain a stamp of approval in Brussels.

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“Should the EU Commission undertake this step, then it must expect a lawsuit at the highest court,” said Faymann, whose country prides itself in supporting green energy.

“Alternative forms of energy are worthy of subsidies, not nuclear energy,” he was quoted as saying by his spokesman.

European Union state aid regulators are set to clear the plans for Hinkley Point, a European Commission official said last month.

Under the plan, Britain would be allowed to offer EDF a guaranteed power price of £92.50 (about €117) per megawatt-hour for 35 years, more than twice the current market rate.

“Hinkley Point […] would set a negative precedent of opening this type of subsidy for nuclear energy. The Commission must prevent this, if not it must expect a lawsuit from Austria at the European Court of Justice,” Mitterlehner said.