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Leaked paper shows Commission could grant unprecedented taxpayer funding for Hinkley nuclear power station

02 October 2014
by greenpeace -- last modified 02 October 2014

A leaked paper disclosed by German magazine der Spiegel has shown the European Commission is on the verge of approving eye-watering amounts of public funding to build nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, in the United Kingdom, saddling taxpayers with the financial and environmental cost.


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Without opposition from a majority of European commissioners at a vote on 8 October, only days before the current Commission leaves office, the European Union could for the first time allow taxpayers to fund the construction of nuclear power plants in Europe.

Austria has already reacted angrily to the plan, threatening to challenge it at the European Court of Justice. Outgoing energy commissioner Günther Oettinger last year described the plan as "Soviet".

Commenting on the leak, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta said: "If this deal is approved, the outgoing Commission will be leaving Brussels in a getaway car after the heist of the century. Taxpayers would be left paying for one of the most expensive power stations in the world, and for the consequences when things go wrong, while EDF rakes in subsidies. What's worse, they want to do this in the name of climate change, locking in support for nuclear for decades, just as major banks are telling investors the smart money is in renewable energy. European commissioners voting next week should think hard about the threat to generations of Europeans and put a stop to this madness".

The leaked paper, drafted by outgoing competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia with the support of Commission president José Manuel Barroso, recommends that the project submitted by the UK government be approved almost entirely unchanged. In a preliminary response to the submission in December 2013, the Commission raised doubts on almost all aspects of the project, stating that the "aid would in principle be incompatible under EU state aid rules". In a U-turn from this statement, the leak includes:

-          A guarantee for EDF to sell electricity at more than twice the current wholesale price for an unprecedented duration of 35 years - with the possibility to review the price up after 15 and 25 years if operation costs are higher than expected.
-          A state guarantee if the French operator of the plant, EDF, and its Chinese partners were to default.
-          An 'insurance' against any future changes to UK policies on energy, nuclear power or the environment.
-          No change to conditions if construction is delayed by up to four years (construction is currently scheduled to last eight to ten years).

The leaked Commission paper does not say how much EDF would pay towards waste disposal and decommissioning of radioactive nuclear waste, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.

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