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Luxembourg joins Hinkley C nuclear challenge

Oliver TickellEditor The Ecologist.21 November 2015

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The Luxembourg government will join Austria’s legal challenge to the €108 billion Hinkley C subsidy package at the European Court of Justice.

The low-key announcement was released yesterday in Austria’s Parliament, just days before the deadline for other states to join is due to expire on Monday.

They will not make a huge fuss about it as they do not want angry phone calls from Downing Street”, commented Adam Pawloff, anti-nuclear spokesman for Greenpeace Austria, who has been working closely with Luxembourg colleagues on the issue.

But he said that the move was an important one whose significance should not be underestimated: “In terms of foreign policy and EU solidarity it is quite a statement for one member state to follow up a legal challenge against another and the fact we are seeing further member states joining shows there is a growing front against nuclear power in Europe.

It is sending a message to all countries involved in building new nuclear power plants that nuclear is not sustainable – environmentally, economically or socially. We are talking about substantial amounts of state aid are going into this nuclear project at a time when nuclear is in normal circumstances not financeable.

The support of the action by Luxembourg is a major setback for the nuclear lobby. And it sends an important message to governments, nuclear developers and the Commission as well which approved the package. You cannot allow this kind of heavily subsidised market-distorting nuclear development anywhere in Europe without expecting legal challenges by multiple states.”

Speaking in July after Austria launched its legal challenge, Luxembourg Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg told the Duchy’s parliament: “Further massive sums of public money cannot put into an unsafe and unprofitable technology that will wreck the market price for renewable energy … If we take our anti-nuclear policy seriously, then we must join this lawsuit.”

Commission acts against Hungary nuclear state aid

In a simultaneous move this week, the Commission has taken the first steps in state aid and public procurement infringement proceedings against Hungary over its planned Paks II nuclear plant a little over 100km from the border with Austria.

The €12.5 billion Paks II plant is to be built by Russia’s Rosatom backed by a €10 billion loan from Russia leaving €2.5 billion invested directly by the Hungarian government. Under a deal agreed in January 2014, construction of two VVER-1200 reactors each of 1.2GW was due to begin in 2015 but this is currently scheduled for 2018.

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Oekonews, November 20, 2015

NPP PAKS II: An investigation by the EU Commission is in process following suspicions that EU rules covering state subsidies and public procurement practices may have been breached. On November 19 first steps have been taken by the European Commission to initiate infringement proceedings against Hungary. “It is quite encouraging to see that the EU Commission is not going to falter in front of the Orban-Putin-project Paks II” remarks Adam Pawloff, anti-nuclear spokesperson for Greenpeace Austria.


Oekonews, November 15, 2015

NPP Bohunice hearing – Austria’s government has to vouch for the the rights of the general public

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On November 18 a hearing regarding the expansion of the Slovak NPP Bohunice was held in Vienna. JESS [Jadrová energetická spoločnosť Slovenska, Nuclear Energy Company of Slovakia], the sponsor of the project, is planning to build yet another reactor at Jaslovské Bohunice, at a distance of 85 km from Vienna (this is in addition to two aging legacy reactors and and two further decommissioned units at the site. One of these last two is out of operation and has been shut down, while the other one had to be abandoned in 1977 after a serious incident involving fuel meltdown. The site is also used for interim spent fuel storage).

According to information provided by the project applicant JESS, the finalization of the EIA (environmental impact assessment) by means of a closing statement by the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic is planned for the first quarter of 2016. Within the framework of the EIA, GLOBAL 2000 issued a – scathing – model advisory opinion. The report has been made available to all affected citizens.

Up to November 21, 2015, more than 10.000 comments have been forwarded by GLOBAL 2000 to the Austrian authorities in charge of matters concerning trans-border public participation. “We think the way in which Austrian citizens have made use of their right to public participation by rejecting a ramshackle and kafkaesque procedures as totally unacceptable is absolutely fabulous”, remarked Dr Reinhard Uhrig, anti-nuclear spokesperson for GLOBAL 2000.

– The EIA is conducted in the absence of information on the planned reactor type.

– Extreme events and their consequences for the new NPP are not being discussed.

– Serious accidents and accident scenarios, including design basis events and cumulative effects caused by the variety of nuclear installations at the site are not being addressed.

– The Slovak Ministry of the Environment accepted the request by JESS to be relieved of the obligation to present alternatives.

No alternative methods of electricity production are being described, no alternative sitings for the NPP envisioned, no comparisons between different types of reactors are made: this renders the EIA useless”, according to Dr Uhrig.

I call on our government to commit itself to safeguard our rights as laid down in the ESPOO and Aarhus Conventions regarding the disclosure of information relevant to environmental concerns and the participation mechanisms in trans-border EIA-proceedings. The present EIA does not conform to the requirements of a sensible environmental impact assessment. If the required information is not presented in the form of additional documentation before the ending of the EIA or cannot be handed in retrospectively during the Vienna hearings this EIA must be aborted.”

Additional Information: Global 2000

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Austria´s successful action against Nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C – Writ released, project economically nonviable, investors run for the hills

Global 2000: Austria’s action against Hinkley is another nail in the coffin of the nuclear renaissance

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Vienna (APA-OTS) – On October 14 an abridged version of Austria’s writ against the subsidies for the Hinkley Pont C nuclear project was issued by the European Court of Justice on its homepage. “GLOBAL 2000 welcomes the action to be brought forward. It bears testimony to a courageous stance of the politically responsible people under the aegis of the federal government” commented Dr Reinhard Uhrig, anti-nuclear spokesperson for GLOBAL 2000. [“The impact of the lawsuit on the willingness of investors to dump dozens of billions of Euros into this insane undertaking can already be seen. This project does not only pose grave technical dangers but is also unsound economically and deleterious to future energy strategies.”]

Investors fear Austria will prevail

Original plans expected the 34 billion Euro (24,4 Billion Pound) nuclear plant to be financed by French investors EDF and AREVA, in conjunction with two of China’s state-owned nuclear conglomerates. In spite of the most generous subsidies and promotions (thereby distorting market forces and thus prohibited, as Austria claims) including special feed-in tariffs for 35 years and investment guarantees to the tune of 24 billion additional Euros (17 billion Pound) investors now quit. The prospect of an Austrian success in a court of law poses unpalatable risks to the investment.

Dr Uhrig: “Rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have announced to downgrade the creditworthiness of EDF in case of a financial engagement in Hinkley Point as the economic risks threatening in case of a defeat in court are monumental. Leaks from the negotiating teams assert that the Chinese firms are no longer interested in 50% equity but instead bargain for a 30% share. This poses massive problems for the sole investor still standing, EDF.”

Anti-nuclear expert Dr Uhrig: “Legal actions and due process do work!”

After the decline to get involved by the sovereign wealth funds of Kuwait and Qatar, by the Saudi Electric Company and by the Hermes Investment Fund, the nuclear engineering firm AREVA was lost as an investor because of rampant financial problems. In 2014 AREVA incurred losses of 4,9 billion and had to be bailed out by the French state. EDF was forced into a merger with AREVA.

Legal actions and due process do work,” Dr Uhrig affirms in concluding. “Therefore we will also continue to table our complaint at the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee of the United Nations, with aims to assure citizen participation in the case of state subsidies.” The petition by GLOBAL 2000 and ÖKOBÜRO has been declared as admissible and has just been forwarded to the European Commission for comment.

Link: Hinkley Point action brought by the Republic of Austria

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 EU commission embroiled in yet another scandal – unlawful nuclear loans for Ukraine

The European Commission granted loans worth millions to Ukrainian nuclear power plants under the EURATOM framework. While these loans may only be granted in order to enhance the safety of NPPs, Ukraine is planning to license operating extensions for all of its 15 antiquated reactors – skirting any kind of environmental impact assessment in the process. The Austrian Network Nuclear-Free (OeNA) is sounding the alert: the risk of severe nuclear accidents such as a renewed meltdown is increasing dramatically!

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In its decision to use the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to finance alleged safety improvements in the 15 Ukrainian reactors to the tune of 600 million, the European Commission is once again using EURATOM to break EU law.

Loans such as these can only be granted for the enhancement of safety standards during the remaining term of operation, but Ukraine is planning license extensions of 20 years for its ancient reactors. This would also extend the risk for a renewed severe accident such as the Chernobyl disaster”, the Austrian Network Nuclear-Free (OeNA) weighs in against the decision of the EU- Commission.

While there is absolutely no guarantee that these loans will ever by repaid, it is beyond doubt that taxpayers will be on the hook to finance a prolonged peril.

02.10.2015: Press release by Anti Atom Komitee in the name of the  Austrian Network Nuclear-Free” (Österreichisches Netzwerk Atomkraftfrei, OeNA).

Answer comes from the socialdemocratic members of European Parliament (mail to Reinhard Uhrig, global2000, from Eugen Freund, SPOe):

„ … to criticize the lifetime-extension of all 15 Ukrainian reactors by European´s financial support is absolutely right. They are located in the near neighbourhood of the European Union. Their lifetime-extension would lead to extensive consequences in foreign politic and energy-politic for the whole EU and Ukraine itself. We are joining the initiative against lifetime-extension of the Ukrainian reactors.“

(shortened PSt.)

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Hungary: “Russia remains an important ally – right into the future”

28.09.2015,  Jürgen Streithammer (DiePresse.com)

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For the remainder of this century, Hungary is betting on nuclear energy. These are the words of Attila Aszódy, commissioner of the Hungarian government for the NPP construction at Paks. He indicated that criticism coming out of Austria was negligible, while enterprises aiming to partake in the construction of the NPP were already standing in line. 

Vienna/Paks. Some 180 km from the Austrian border, in Paks on the banks of the river Danube, Russia’s Rosatom will start in 2018 to erect a new NPP. The two units are slated to be connected to the grid in 2025 and 2026, respectively. The existing plant is going to be shut down in 2032. In the transitional period up to 60% of Hungary’s electricity demand will thus be covered, 40% once the older units have been retracted from service.

At the European level Paks II managed to overcome multiple hurdles – in part, because apparently Hungary agreed to limit exclusive rights to Russia for the delivery of fuel rods to 10 years instead of 20 years. The European Commission continues to assess two additional issues, a spokesperson confirmed to “Die Presse”: Under investigation are potential violations of rules and regulations covering state subsidies and public tendering. Hungary was able to shoulder the project evaluated at 12,5 billion Euro because of favourable Russian financing that covers 80% of the cost. The balance is provided by the Hungarian state. Attila Aszódy has been named as commissioner by Hungary’s government to see Paks II through.

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Nuclear Deal between Putin and Orban: PAKS vobiscum?

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Global 2000, Patricia Lorenz, September 9, 2015

In the course of the hearing on the expansion of the Hungarian nuclear power plant (NPP) Paks II in Vienna (held on September 23, 2015) we demanded the immediate termination of environmental impact assessment procedures and the comprehensive  disclosure of all pertinent documents.

GLOBAL 2000 activists demonstrated against the NPP project Paks II at the official hearing in Vienna. Paks II envisions the construction of two additional 1200 MW reactors at the existent site that already hosts four 30 year old Soviet reactors.

During the summer news emerged that documents proving the inadequacy of the design of the two units regarding cooling capacity and the handling of emergency situations had been shrouded in secrecy. We demand the immediate abolition of the Hungarian law consigning most of the relevant documents to thirty years of concealment. In addition we demand the immediate cancellation of the environmental impact assessment as it rests on false premises.

The deal concerning the two Russian pressurised water reactors was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian head of state Viktor Orban on January 14, 2014, thereby evading regular tender procedures for the 12,5 billion Euro project. Russia will loan 10 billion to Hungary, repayable at a rate of 4,95% interest by the Hungarian taxpayer starting in 2026. These repayments are due even if the reactors are not completed on time.

Secret documents that have been leaked to the Hungarian Member of the European Parliament Benedek Javor point to fundamental errors in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and thus in the whole procedure:

– The heat load transferred into the Danube due to cooling requirements has not been correctly calculated.

– Security features of the reactor type selected, the as of yet untested AES 2006 design, are not being elucidated.

– The source term (amount of radioactivity released) in case of an accident is unrealistically low: a thousand times lower than at Chernobyl catastrophe.

Our speaker in all matters anti-nuclear, Reinhard Uhrig, emphasized the importance of demanding the European Union to check this nuclear deal for illegal state subsidies, as the direct awarding of the project to Russia, circumventing proper tender, is fraught with irregularities. Furthermore, the structure of the contract is clearly anti-competitive in designating a fully state-owned company as the builder. Should the Commission just rubber stamp this deal – as it was done in the case of Hinkley Point – Austria will have to sue yet again in order to establish that the rule of law does indeed cover nuclear issues too.

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