No ING money for Slovakian nuclear project

Thursday, January 31, 2008

London, 31 January: Dutch bank ING has said it will not finance a nuclear power project in Slovakia, which the country’s own nuclear regulator has said does not comply with modern safety standards.

Slovakian utility Slovenské elektrárne (SE) – taken over by Enel in 2005 – has resuscitated plans to build an additional two reactors on the site of the Soviet-era Mochvoce nuclear power plant. The former Czechoslovakian government issued a permit for the construction of Mochovce 3 and 4 in 1987, only a year after the Chernobyl disaster. Work stopped in 1992 due to lack of funds, but the permit is still valid.

Although the plans have been updated, environmental groups and the Slovakian Nuclear Agency say that construction has reached a stage where it will not be possible to bring the plant up to modern safety standards and EU regulations – for example, there is no way to add a containment structure to protect from external events, such as an aeroplane crash. The Green coalition in the European Parliament has produced a background film and document on the legal, environmental and safety issues with the project.

On 22 October 2007, SE announced that it had raised an $800 million corporate loan to finance its investment programme from nine banks, including ING – 85% of which is slated to be spent on Mochovce 3 and 4, Greenpeace has learned. The other banks involved in the financing are Calyon, Mizuho Corporate Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, KBC, Slovenská sporiteľňa, Komerční banka Praha, Komerční banka Bratislava and Dexia.

ING has not pulled out of the corporate revolving credit facility, as it has a “general purpose”, spokeswoman Debbie Brand said. However, the Dutch bank told Greenpeace that: “ING will not invest a single euro in this project.” This includes both project finance and corporate loans. Brand confirmed to Environmental Finance that ING will not put its money into the project, however she declined to comment further because of client confidentiality.

Jan Haverkamp, EU campaigner on nuclear energy at Greenpeace based in Brussels, said: “This decision is an important signal. The Mochovce project is amongst the worst nuclear projects in the pipeline in Europe. ING’s refusal to finance it shows that Mochovce does not meet today’s corporate social responsibility standards.”

He said that cases such as Mochovce – and the Belene nuclear power station located in an earthquake-prone area of Bulgaria, which saw 12 out of 13 financiers drop out in 2006-07 after pressure from Greenpeace and other environmental groups – show that corporate-level policies are not always being implemented on the ground. “Most of these investments are negotiated by local deal brokers,” Haverkamp said, adding that the problem has been exacerbated by consolidation of the banking sector – with some institutions buying up banks with less stringent corporate social responsibility policies.

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