Complaint to European Commission on the legality of UK nuclear policy could stall massive new build programme

Environmental groups and politicians are making a complaint to the European Commission about the UK’s nuclear market policy, which could stall the building of new nuclear power plants.

The complaint, organised by pressure group Energy Fair and backed by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, alleges the government’s energy policy amounts to a subsidy for nuclear power, which contravenes European laws.

It says the cap on liabilities for nuclear accidents, which is currently set at £140m, and proposed caps on liabilities for nuclear waste processing, effectively amount to offering state support to nuclear energy.

It argues this contravenes the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prevents aid that favours the production of certain goods or distorts markets.

Energy Fair said that if the cap on liabilities for nuclear accidents was removed the cost of nuclear electricity would rise by between €0.14 and €2.36, which could make the building of new nuclear power plants less attractive.

Alasdair Reisner, head of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Group, said: “We are going to have concerns about anything which blocks progress to nuclear power generation.”

Reisner said any delay would be particularly concerning given the length of time it took to develop nuclear power plants and the need for new electricity generation capacity in coming years.

A spokesperson for EDF, which is set to build the UK’s first new nuclear power plant in 20 year at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, said: “We have always maintained that no subsidy is required to fund EDF Energy’s new nuclear plans, nor have we asked for any.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said the proposals for energy market reform were “entirely consistent with the policy of no subsidy”.