Reading through the nuclear news of the past weeks, the attentive reader might have come across an under-the-radar dispute of Austria and United Kingdom, perhaps one of the most unfathomable confrontations in Europe, considering the distance and difference in national policies. The crux of the matter is the following: when Britain reversed in 2006 its previous policy of scraping all nuclear power and has made nuclear one of the key components of its carbon-emission reduction strategy, it has set in motion an entire array of countries ardently against building new nuclear assets. When the policy plan evolved into a real prospect of Hinkley Point C, one of the most anti-nuclear nations, Austria, decided to take the issue to European courts, claiming that the UK’s aiding of nuclear projects by means of subsidies contradicts EU norms. In its definitive ruling dated September 22, 2020, the European Court of Justice has found that UK’s aid for Hinkley Point does not violate EU rules and regulations, providing its commentary on the 3 main disputed elements of the deal. First, the ECJ found that the “contract for difference” which ensures that the price of electricity Hinkley Point will get does not drop below a specific threshold is perfectly valid. Second, Austria felt some resentment over the UK government’s signing onto a compensation scheme whereby London provides binding guarantees that were Hinkley Point to shut down due to political reasons the project stakeholders would receive appropriate compensation. The third objectionable measure (in the eyes of the Austrian authorities) consisted of the UK government’s credit guarantee towards the company’s project company NPC yet even this was considered sustainable.
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