12 Jul (NucNet): Europe’s second highest court has rejected Austrian objections to the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear station in southwest England, saying British government aid offered to the project did not violate EU rules.
The European Commission approved the project in October 2014, saying it did not see any competition issues, but a previous Austrian government took issue with the decision and filed a case with the General Court in 2015, arguing that it contradicted EU policy of supporting renewable energy.
Luxembourg has also challenged the approval, backed by a group of more than 20 academics, politicians and renewable energy officials who say it distorts competition and flouts rules on government subsidies.
But the court noted in its decision today that the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the UK intervened in support of the EC.
The General Court dismissed Austria’s arguments against the project. The court said: “The General Court confirms the decision by which the Commission approved the aid provided by the UK in favour of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station,” judges said.
The judges said Britain has the right to choose between the different energy sources.
“The Commission did not err in taking the view that the UK was entitled to define the development of nuclear energy as being a public-interest objective, even though that objective is not shared by all of the member states,” the court said.
In addition, EU regulators were correct to allow British state aid for the project because of the lack of market-based financial instruments and other contracts to hedge against the substantial investment risks in the project, it said.
Austria’s ministry for sustainability and tourism said it regretted the judgement which sends “a wrong signal” about subsidies for building nuclear power plants.
UK-based EDF Energy is building two 1,600-MW EPR units at Hinkley Point C, which are expected to provide 7% of Britain’s electricity needs when fully operational. According to the latest EDF estimates, the project is expected to cost £19.6bn.
China General Nuclear International (CGN) owns 35% of the project.
The first unit at Hinkley Point C is scheduled to enter into service in 2023.