Hinkley C nuclear power station faces legal challenge

Hinkley power station image Image copyright EDF Energy
Image caption EDF's illustration of what the Hinkley C nuclear power station might look like

The planned Hinkley C nuclear power station in Somerset is the subject of a new legal challenge.

A German energy co-operative founded by environmental lobby group Greenpeace is to launch a legal action against the European Commission.

It accuses the Commission of wrongly approving the nuclear reactor project in October following a lengthy state aid inquiry.

The co-operative argues the new plant threatens to "distort" competition.

EDF Energy is due to build the plant, the first in the UK in almost 20 years.

The Commission gave the go-ahead to the project after the government reduced the subsidy by more than £1bn.

The most recent estimate put the cost of Hinkley C at £24.5bn - much higher than the government and EDF's original £16bn forecast.

The latest figure includes the impact of inflation as well as interest costs for the 10 year construction period.

Unfair state aid?

Soenke Tangermann, managing director of Greenpeace Energy, said the "highly subsidised" electricity produced by the plant would "noticeably distort European competitiveness."

The energy cooperative was founded by Greenpeace 15 years ago and now operates as an independent company.

"This effect will have economic disadvantages for committed green [energy] providers like us and that's why we are going to court," Mr Tangermann said.

Greenpeace Energy says the subsidies planned for the controversial scheme are far higher than those for wind and solar power in Germany.

Austria - which opposes nuclear power - has also signalled it will launch its own legal challenge against the project, arguing that subsidies ought to be restricted to renewable energy sources.

Greenpeace Energy is also calling on the German government to take action against what it calls "the unfair state aid approval."

A German government official told the BBC last autumn that he could see no grounds for launching a legal challenge despite widespread opposition to the Hinkley decision in the country.

Berlin is committed to phasing out nuclear power as part of its long-term transition to renewable energy known as the "Energiewende."

The law firm Becker and Buettner has been instructed to prepare the application for an annulment of the Commision's decision, which will then be put before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

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