Austria loses court fight against UK Hinkley nuclear plant

Construction including one of two 'nuclear islands' is seen at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station near Cannington in southwest England, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Austria lost its fight against Britain’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power station on Tuesday after Europe’s top court said that British government aid offered to the project was legal.

Hinkley Point, which is scheduled to come online in 2025, will provide 7% of Britain’s power needs and be the UK’s first nuclear plant in more than two decades.

The 3.2 gigawatt plant, which France’s EDF is building with China General Nuclear Power Corp, has seen numerous delays, with the costs most recently estimated at up to 22.5 billion pounds ($28.8 billion).

The European Commission approved the project in 2014, triggering a court challenge from Austria which has opposed nuclear power for decades. Luxembourg supported Vienna’s legal fight.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) rejected Austria’s arguments, one of which was on environmental grounds.

“The Court of Justice confirms the Commission decision approving United Kingdom aid for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station,” judges at the Luxembourg-based court said.

EU competition enforcers are not required to take into account any negative effects of state aid other than those impacting competition and trade between EU countries, they said.

The CJEU also cited EU laws which allows EU countries to determine the conditions for exploiting their energy resources, their mix of energy sources, and the general structure of their energy supply.

The case is C-594/18 P Austria v. Commission.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Jason Neely