September 24, 2014 / 4:35 PM / 5 years ago

Austrian minister for legal action against EU over UK nuclear plant

VIENNA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Austria’s environment minister would back legal steps to annul any European Union decision to clear British plans to build a nuclear plant with French utility EDF.

The project at Hinkley Point in southwest England is crucial for Britain’s plan to replace a fifth of its ageing nuclear power and coal plants over the coming decade. France sees it as a major export contract that will boost its nuclear industry.

A European Commission official said earlier this week that EU state aid regulators would clear the plan to build the 16 billion pound ($26 billion) plant.

However, Britain’s plans are divisive within the European Union. Britain wants to offer EDF a guaranteed power price of 92.50 pounds ($151.3) per megawatt-hour for 35 years, more than twice the current market rate.

Critics say Britain’s plans would distort competition.

A group of more than 20 academics, politicians and renewable energy officials has written to the Commission warning it is likely to face legal action for rushing through the decision.

“This scandal must be fought with all legal means,” newspaper Der Kurier cited Austrian Environment Minister Andrae Rupprechter as saying on Wednesday.

A spokesperson said Rupprechter would support any legal action to annul the decision at the European Court of Justice — should the EU clear the project. Ruprechter would need the backing of Austria’s cabinet to take action in the name of the Republic of Austria.

Austria prides itself on promoting green energy such as hydropower.

1 US dollar = 0.6118 British pound Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; editing by Pravin Char and David Clarke

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