Legal efforts to put a halt to halt nuclear construction

A formal complaint regarding the subsidies given to nuclear power has been lodged with the European Commission. If this is upheld, it is very unlikely that any more nuclear power stations will be constructed within the UK or the rest of the EU. This complaint could also be followed up by legal action in courts, or by actions from politicians with he aim of removing or reducing subsidies currently given for nuclear power.

This complaint had been compiled by lawyers representing the Energy Fair Group, along with several other environmentalists and environmental groups.

One of the largest subsidies in the complaint is the cap on liabilities for nuclear accidents. “Like car drivers, the operators of nuclear plants should be properly insured” says Energy Fair. It has been calculated that, if nuclear operators were fully insured against the cost of nuclear disasters like those at Chernobyl and Fukushima, the price of nuclear electricity would rise by at least 14 Euro cents per kWh and perhaps as much as 2.36 Euros, depending on assumptions made. Even with the minimum increase, nuclear electricity would become quite uncompetitive.

Other subsidies in the complaint are: that uranium is exempted from a tax on fuels used to generate electricity, and that the UK government is proposing to provide support for the disposal of nuclear waste, and to provide a subsidy in the form of a “feed-in tariff with contracts for difference”. Research by Energy Fair shows that there are several other subsidies for nuclear power in the UK and that proposals by the government would introduce more.

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green party ofEngland andWales, said: “The Government’s planned Electricity Market Reform is set to rig the energy market in favour of nuclear — with the introduction of a carbon price floor likely to result in huge windfall handouts of around £50m a year to existing nuclear generators.

Despite persistent denials by Ministers, it’s clear that this is a subsidy by another name, which makes a mockery of the Coalition pledge not to gift public money to this already established industry. If these subsidies are found to be unlawful, I trust the European Commission will take action and prevent the UK’s nuclear plans from seriously undermining the shift towards new green energy.”

Dr Dörte Fouquet, the lawyer who has been leading the preparation of the complaint, said: “The European Union has opted for opening up the energy market and is vigilant about creating a level playing field. In this regard, the Commission over the last years repeatedly underlined that distortion of the market is to a large extent caused by subsidies to the incumbents in the energy sector. This complaint aims to shed some light on the recent shift in the energy policy of the United Kingdom where strong signals point to yet another set of subsidies to the nuclear power plant operators.”

“There is no justification of any kind for subsidising nuclear power” says Dr Gerry Wolff of Energy Fair. “It is a mature technology that should be commercially viable without support. Renewables have clear advantages in cost, speed of construction, security of energy supplies, and effectiveness in cutting emissions of CO2. There are more than enough to meet our needs now and for the foreseeable future, they provide diversity in energy supplies, and they have none of the headaches of nuclear power.”