Sell-out on UK nuclear plan exposes Commission to legal challenges

Unprecedented public funding for Hinkley reactors waved through virtually unchanged

Press release - October 8, 2014
Brussels – The European Commission has for the first time cleared a plan for taxpayers to heavily subsidise the construction of a nuclear power plant in the EU. Two new reactors at Hinkley Point, in the United Kingdom, will receive up to €20 billion in subsidies, making Hinkley one of the most expensive power plants in the world.

Reacting to the decision, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta said: “This is a world record sell-out to the nuclear industry at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. It’s such a distortion of competition rules that the Commission has left itself exposed to legal challenges. There is absolutely no legal, moral or environmental justification in turning taxes into guaranteed profits for a nuclear power company whose only legacy will be a pile of radioactive waste. This is a bad plan for everyone except EDF.”

The Austrian government has signalled it would challenge the Commission decision at the European Court of Justice [1].

Only days before its term ends on 31 October, the outgoing Commission has approved the state aid plan by the UK government with virtually no strings attached, including:

  • An index-linked guarantee for the French operator of the plant, 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 upwards after 15 and 25 years if operation costs are higher than expected.
  • A back-up state guarantee to EDF and its Chinese partners if the project were to default on loan repayments.
  • ‘Insurance’ against future changes to UK energy or environment laws that could increase EDF’s costs.
  • No mention of how much EDF would pay towards waste disposal and decommissioning of radioactive nuclear waste.
  • No change to conditions if construction is delayed by up to four years (construction is currently scheduled to last eight to ten years).
  • The right for EDF to keep a large portion of any underspend from construction, instead of returning it to the UK taxpayer.

The Hinkley reactors are the first two of twelve that the UK intends to build.




Contact: Greenpeace EU press desk: 32 (0)2 274 1911,


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