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Trouble ahead for UK’s nuclear hopes via Reuters

The next generation of reactors in the U.K. has been in the works for a decade, but now a looming challenge in the European Court of Justice attacking nuclear subsidies, growing technical problems and cost overruns are casting doubt on the idea of using nuclear to meet emissions reduction targets.
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Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann announced this week the government would lodge its complaint in the European Court of Justice next week; the Greens said it would be Monday. It is backed by Luxembourg, which takes over the European Council presidency next week, as well as a number of companies and cities.

Vienna opposes nuclear energy overall, on the grounds that it is expensive and environmentally dangerous. A long-time importer of nuclear power from the Czech Republic and Germany, the country decided in 2013 to ban all foreign supplies, beginning this year.

The complaint, however, does not seek to interfere with another member state’s choice of electricity supply, Austrian and Luxembourgish sources stressed. Instead, it targets the U.K.’s use of a so-called strike price, which triggers government subsidies if wholesale electricity prices fall below a certain level. Until now, the scheme has only been used to support wind and solar energy projects.
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While Austria and Luxembourg argue this scheme should be reserved for solar and wind generation, the U.K. believes all three types of energy qualify as zero-carbon sources, which will help it achieve its emissions reduction goals.
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While Austria and Luxembourg argue this scheme should be reserved for solar and wind generation, the U.K. believes all three types of energy qualify as zero-carbon sources, which will help it achieve its emissions reduction goals.
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The case also comes amid growing concerns about the cost and safety of Areva’s EPR technology.

Before construction starts on Hinkley, EPR is being put to the test with the Flamanville reactor in France, Olkiluoto in Finland, and Taishan in China.

The Flamanville and Olkiluoto plants are already behind schedule; Flamanville’s start up has been pushed back by a year to 2017, while Olkiluoto is now expected online around 2018, which would be a decade later than planned for a project that started construction in 2005.

Areva is also teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and the French government has backed EDF’s plan to buy a controlling stake in the company to keep it afloat.

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“Nuclear power was promised as an energy source that would be too cheap to meter. It is now too expensive to generate,” said Flynn, adding that the fall in oil and gas prices since 2013 makes the strike price of £92.50/MWh twice the average rate for electricity nowadays.

While the European public has largely turned against nuclear since the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011, the British have been shielded by a “skilled public relations operation,” Flynn added.

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