Germany rebuffs European nuclear power subsidy proposal

Saturday, July 20, 2013

(Reuters) - Germany on Friday rebuffed draft plans by the European Commission to allow European Union member states to directly subsidise nuclear power.

Several European governments, such as Britain and France, plan to build new nuclear power stations, but many companies are shying away from investing in the expensive technology without the safeguard of government support.

The Commission's draft, seen by Reuters and titled "Paper of the Commission Services containing draft guidelines on environmental and energy aid for 2O14-2O20", proposes to allow governments to provide direct state aid for nuclear power.

The paper says that aid may be compatible with EU rules and that "these guidelines apply to state aid for environmental protection, including CO2 capture, transport and storage (CCS), energy infrastructure, capacity mechanisms and nuclear energy".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she opposed nuclear subsidies.

"Germany voted against (nuclear plants getting subsidies) and I support that," Merkel told a news conference in Berlin, when asked about the draft.

Following the nuclear reactor meltdown at Japan's Fukushima plant in March 2011, the German government passed a law to speed up its nuclear exit policy, a move that enjoys broad support from the country's public.

Germany spends large amounts of cash in state subsidies aimed at boosting the country's renewable power generation.

The government in Berlin is concerned that these renewable subsidies would lose their intended impact if other energy technologies, such as nuclear power, are also supported by governments.

The Commission's draft says that "pursuing the development of nuclear energy, in particular by facilitating investment in nuclear energy, is an objective covered under Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty."

It also says that aid to nuclear energy could be related to decommissioning, the treatment, management and disposal of nuclear waste.

Although the Commission did not officially back the proposal, it said that as the European authority in charge of state aid control, it was obliged to examine proposals for subsidies, including nuclear power.

"This document was not endorsed by the Commission, but is a preparation document for a public consultation," European Commission spokesman for competition policy Antoine Colombani said in Brussels.

"The European Commission does not wish in any way to encourage subsidies to nuclear power... However, it appears that some member states do wish to subsidise nuclear power, and the Commission is in charge of state aid control, so whenever a member state notifies a measure we are obliged to examine it," he added.

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