Austria’s nuclear battle against Britain

EPA PHOTO PA/FILES/Chris Bacon

A file photo dated 26 September 1996 of the Aea Nuclear Reprocessing Plant at Dounreay Scotland.

Vienna is taking a stand against the nuclear lobby in Europe


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Paradoxically for the country that is host to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria is the biggest enemy of the nuclear energy lobby in Europe.

Vienna is not ready to engage London into a battle over nuclear energy policy.

Specifically, Austria filed a complaint against at the European Court of Justice against Britain’s proposed £ 17 bn pounds (€24 bn) subsidies to private companies for the construction of two nuclear reactors. Austrian and British energy analysts agree that nuclear energy requires an enormous initial investment, which means that it is an enormously expensive and unattractive investment unless the bill is picked up by the tax payer.

Austria is single handedly taking on the European nuclear industry, which is a very strong interest group spearheaded by French companies. Austria is surrounded by Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, that is, states that developed the use of nuclear energy during communism and are now expanding its use. The only neighboring country committed to phasing out nuclear energy by 2022 is Germany, that is, a commitment by Chancellor Merkel with significant costs for the energy industry. Austria has banned nuclear energy imports since January 2015 and has warned that it will veto EU subsidies for the development of nuclear infrastructure.

The Austrian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Mr Rupprechte, is contesting the European Commission’s decision in October 2014 to authorize the subsidy. The Austrian minister claims this level of aid is “illegitimate,” undermining competition and the development of renewable energy in a level playing field.

Austria has one of the most eco-friendly energy policies in Europe, with 75% of its energy mix and 34% of its energy production coming from renewables, including sun, wind, and water. That is far ahead from modest EU target of 20% by 2020.

Austria has always been against the use of nuclear energy. In 1978, the construction of a nuclear plant in Zwentendorf, near Vienna, was annulled via a referendum. Following the accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima the anti-nuclear movement was reinvigorated.

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