The plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley in the UK are too expensive, too late, won’t help cut greenhouse gas emissions, violate EU competition law, and will distort Europe‘s energy markets.
On 6 July 2015, Greenpeace Energy, together with German and Austrian energy utilities, filed a legal challenge in the European Courts against the EU Commission’s decision to rubberstamp billions of euros in state subsidies for new nuclear reactors at the Hinkley nuclear power plant in the UK.
The filing argues these massively subsidised reactors will influence energy prices in Europe and grossly distort competition.
In a similar filing, the Austrian government submitted a complaint to the European Court against the European Commission for failing to properly implement EU law when it approved the UK’s nuclear welfare package. As Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a statement, nuclear power “is not an innovative technology and is therefore not worthy of subsidy.”
In short, the Hinkley reactors threaten to block the road to a safe, clean renewable future. “The EU Commission’s decision threatens to have negative consequences for our environmentally sound production plants,” says Dr. Achim Kötzle, Managing Director of Stadtwerke Tübingen on behalf of the eight municipal utilities in the action.
Here’s the situation:
The price of the electricity generated by the new Hinkley C reactors has been guaranteed by the British government for 35 years. This means that, no matter the fluctuations in the price of electricity, Hinkley owner EDF will always get its money.
With renewable energy getting cheaper all the time, and the Hinkley reactors not expected to be in operation before the middle of the next decade, you can see why EDF wanted to fix its prices.
Figures commissioned by Greenpeace Energy (an organisation independent of Greenpeace) show that this is a gift to EDF of some 108 billion euros of public funds. In addition, the British government has made guarantees of more than 20 billion to investors in the construction of the new nuclear plant.
As Sönke Tanger, Managing Director of Greenpeace Energy says: “We are taking legal action against these exorbitant nuclear subsidies because they appear to be ecologically and economically senseless and signify serious disadvantages for other energy providers, for renewables, and for consumers.”
The approval of this state funding of nuclear reactors also sets a bad example for the rest of Europe. If Hinkley succeeds, countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are likely to follow.
There are also huge doubts about the European Nuclear Reactor (EPR) technology EDF wishes to build at Hinkley C. The ones being built in Finland and France are massively over budget, years behind schedule, and have experienced huge technical problems.
Why wait ten years (at least) for new expensive and unsafe nuclear reactors when renewable energy projects are ready to go right now? Hinkley C must be stopped before it irreparably damages our future.
Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.
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