Germany says using tax money for nuclear power 'out of the question'

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2015 6:19 AM

By Barbara Lewis and Tom Koerkemeier

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Using taxpayers' money to fund nuclear power is "absolutely out of the question", German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, in an apparent swipe at British plans to finance new atomic generation.

Gabriel was arriving for talks in Brussels on the European Commission's proposal for an energy union, which would deepen cross-border cooperation on energy across the 28-member EU.

Previous efforts to harmonize energy policy have faltered as member states have jealously guarded their right to decide on the kind of energy they use.

Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power sets it at odds with plans by Britain and France to invest in the emissions-free fuel source, which they say plays a major role in combating climate change.

Germany has instead focused on renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

"There are countries in the EU that want to support nuclear power with tax money. We think that is absolutely out of the question," Gabriel said.

"We will not agree by any means that nuclear energy be supported by public money. Nuclear energy is the most expensive kind of generation. It has now been around for 50 years, it is not new and it is dangerous."

Gabriel did not directly mention Britain's plans to finance new nuclear generation to be built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England.

The European Commission last year approved state aid for the 16 billion pound ($25 billion) plan, drawing fierce criticism and legal action from those who say the subsidy distorts competition.

On Wednesday, a German energy cooperative announced it would take legal action against Britain's plan to pay a guaranteed price for power produced at Hinkley Point.

Representing member states that support nuclear power, Romania's Energy Minister Andrei Gerea has written to European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic calling for "a supportive EU framework for safe and sustainable new nuclear".

He also urges the Commission to publish promptly its plans for deeper reform of the European Union's Emissions Trading System once efforts under way to set up a reserve for surplus carbon permits have been agreed.

The reserve would boost prices on the ETS, which at around 7 euros a ton make it cheap to burn polluting coal and in terms of cost do not justify expensive nuclear generation.

In the letter seen by Reuters, Gerea says he also represents the views of Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

(Editing by Dale Hudson)