Austria to file complaint against UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear project in European Court of Justice

Jun 24, 2015 10:00 IST

Austria on 23 June 2015 decided to file a legal complaint against the European Commission (EU)’s approval to the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The petition is expected to be filed on 29 June 2015.

In October 2014, the EC gave the approval for UK Government’s around 17 billion British pounds subsidy for construction and operation of the project over a period of 35 years.

Austria, a non-nuclear power state, opposing the EC’s decision on the following grounds

• The EC’s approval is based on procedural flaws as it has not considered all the things which it should have considered before giving its nod, hence, it UK’s aid is illegal.
• Nuclear power is not a sustainable form of technology – neither in environmental nor in economic terms.
• Any form of direct or indirect subsidies to nuclear power should not be encouraged and there should be complete internalization of all external costs based on the polluter pays principle.
• Austria doesn’t consider nuclear power to be eligible for the European Fund for Strategic Investments [EFSI].

The decision of Austria is expected to be supported by Luxemburg, another nuclear-free state in the European Union (EU).

Features of Hinkley Point C nuclear project

• Under the project two nuclear power plants will be established at Somerset in south-west England.
• The two reactors will produce in total 3.3 GW of electricity - the largest output produced by a single plant in the UK representing 7 percent of total UK electricity generation.
• It will be built by French energy firm EDF, and two Chinese companies- CGN and CNNC with an estimated 24.5 billion US dollars.
• It will use the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology which is not yet operational anywhere in the world. There are only three projects currently under construction in France, Finland and China which will rely on this technology.
• Under the contract for difference agreement between the UK Government and the nuclear operators the Government will pay the difference between the strike price (government fixed price to sell nuclear power) and the market price.
• The operator will also benefit from a State guarantee covering any debt which the operator will seek to obtain on financial markets to fund the construction of the plant.
• For implementing the contract for difference agreement, the credit guarantee and planned level of public support, the government is expected to doll out 17 billion British pounds as a form of subsidy to the project operators.
• It will be the first one in Western Europe ever since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan in 2011 and the first nuclear plant of UK in over two decades.
• Start of operations is scheduled for 2023 with an expected operational lifetime of 60 years.

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