FORATOM, the voice of the European nuclear energy industry, welcomes the decision of the General Court of the European Union (EU) to dismiss Austria’s complaint, supported by Luxembourg, against the European Commission’s (EC) state aid approval for the construction of two nuclear reactors at the Hinkley Point C power plant in the United Kingdom. The Court’s decision to uphold the EC’s approval of the aid provided by the UK Government can be perceived as good news for all the EU Member States which are considering nuclear new build projects as it sends a positive signal for future nuclear investments in the EU.
In this context, FORATOM recalls the right of EU Member States to choose nuclear energy as part of their energy mix and to favour long-term investments in nuclear energy, in line with the objectives of the Euratom Treaty and in particular Article 2(c) which states that the EU shall “facilitate investment and ensure, particularly by encouraging ventures on the part of undertakings, the establishment of the basic installations necessary for the development of nuclear energy in the Community”.
FORATOM also recognises the indispensable role of the UK Government in the process and its commitment to the project as part of its support for nuclear power. The UK considers nuclear energy as a key means to secure the country’s energy supply and meet its climate goals. Hinkley Point C is expected to provide 7% of Britain’s power needs by producing reliable, low-carbon and affordable electricity which also offers the flexibility of dispatch required to balance the increasing share of intermittent renewable energy sources.
The new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will require debt financing of GBP 17 billion (around EUR 21.6 billion) and will eventually have a capital of about GBP 34 billion (around EUR 43 billion). The construction costs are estimated at GBP 24.5 billion (around EUR 31.2 billion). Start of operations is scheduled for 2023 with an expected operational lifetime of 60 years. The two reactors will produce in total 3.3 GW of electricity – the largest output produced by a single plant in the UK and representing 7% of UK electricity generation. The UK will need about 60 GW of new electricity generation capacity to come online between 2021 and 2030 due to the closure of existing nuclear and coal power plants. The Hinkley Point nuclear power station will use the EPR technology which is not yet operational anywhere in the world. There are only three projects currently under construction in France, Finland and China which will rely on this technology.