Austria to Sue if EU Regulator Clears UK Nuclear Plan
Austria will take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if it approves Britain's plans for a 16 billion-pound ($26 billion) nuclear power plant, a spokesman for the chancellor said on Sunday.
The deal to pay a guaranteed price for the power produced in the plant faces opposition from a quarter of EU policymakers, who want to overturn approval from the top European regulator. A vote is expected on Wednesday.
The project, to be built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest 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 Austria's chancellor Werner Faymann and vice-chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner sent a letter to the European Commission's president Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday saying Austria would "reserve" the right to take legal steps should the project gain a stamp of approval in Brussels.
"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 pounds per megawatt-hour for 35 years, more than twice the current market rate.
"Hinkley Point ... would set a negative precedent to open this type of subsidy for nuclear energy. The EU-Commission must prevent this, if not it must expect a lawsuit from Austria at the European Court of Justice," Mitterlehner said.
(Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
(1 US dollar = 0.6264 British pounds)