Austria's Constitutional Service of the Federal Chancellery today filed a lawsuit with the European Court against the European Commission's approval of state aid for the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in the UK.
Two Areva EPR reactors are planned for Hinkley Point C. EDF Energy has yet to make a final investment decision on the project, but has invested significantly in preparatory activities at the site.
Announcing the filing, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a statement that nuclear power "is not an innovative technology and is therefore not worthy of subsidy".
"[State] aid is there to support new and modern technologies that are in the general interest of all EU countries. This is in no way true of nuclear power," Faymann said.
Austria is opposed in particular to the EC's reasoning that state aid contributes to the promotion of an industry.
"The state-guaranteed purchase price for a period of 35 years, Great Britain's state credit guarantee of up to £17 billion and compensation in the event of the plant's early closure run counter to our view of the requirements for state aid approval," he added.
The statement issued by the Federal Chancellery added that, "even if" nuclear energy contributed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, "it is undisputed" that the overall environmental impact of nuclear power plants is negative. Therefore, it said, nuclear power generation - as opposed to renewable energy sources – has not so far been covered by the EC's environmental and energy aid guidelines.
The action has Austrian parliamentary approval, with the support of all the country's political parties, and follows a decision of the Council of Ministers of 22 June, he added.
On 6 June Faymann declared that the action against Hinkley would be intended as a "deterrent to investors, not only in Britain but throughout Europe" and "a further step in [Austria's] anti-nuclear policy, whose long-term objective is a nuclear-free Europe."
The World Nuclear Association said today that Austria's opposition to the EC's approval of the Hinkley Point project does not respect the right of any country to choose nuclear power to meet their energy needs and to help address climate concerns.
In fact, the action is profoundly misinformed and damaging to global efforts to address climate change, World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said.
"The countries that are leading on decarbonisation are using nuclear energy. Not all countries are in Austria's position - lucky enough to be able to count on hydro power built decades ago to provide roughly 65% of their electricity today. Most others have to make pragmatic choices," Rising said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the leading international body for the assessment of climate change - unequivocally recognises that nuclear energy is a low-carbon generating technology with life-cycle emissions "comparable to most renewables".
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News