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EU dismisses Hinkley Point legal challenge

Hinkley Point C, Nuclear

Austria’s bid to block state funding for Hinkley Point C has failed at the European Union’s second-highest court.

The Austrian government said it would appeal against the “regrettable decision” after the General Court rejected its claim, backed by Luxembourg, that the £19bn power plant should not receive UK state aid.

In 2015 the Austrian government launched a legal challenge against Hinkley Point C on the grounds that the UK government should not subsidise a nuclear plant, as it goes against the EU’s push for renewable power.

But the General Court has ruled that the European Commission was right to allow state aid for the nuclear scheme in 2014.

The judges said: “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.”

Hinkley Point C is 70% owned by Chinese nuclear giant CNG group and 30% owned by French energy company EDF. It is expected to start generating power in 2025.

In 2013 the taxpayer bill for Hinkley Point C was estimated to be £6.1bn, but the National Audit Office (NAO) revised its estimate three years later to almost £30bn.

The Austrian Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, which is against new nuclear power, said the General Court’s judgement was a “regrettable decision.”

“The Ministry considers it a wrong signal, if subsidies for the construction of nuclear power plants would be classified as harmless. It would be difficult to access if aid for renewable energy sources were made difficult, but on the other hand operating aid for nuclear power stations would be granted over a period of 35 years at the expense of taxpayers,” it said.

“The reasons for rejecting the lawsuit against Hinkley Point C will now be carefully examined, the Austrian government will then decide on a timely appeal.”

Austria is also bringing legal action against construction of new nuclear reactors at the Paks II nuclear plant in Hungary.

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