In advance of official publication, Germany's government has 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. However many prospective developers are shying away from investing in the expensive and financially uncertain technology without the safeguard of government support. The European Commission, reputedly under pressure from Britain and France, has prepared a draft paper titled "Paper of the Commission Services containing draft guidelines on environmental and energy aid for 2O14-2O20", which proposes to allow governments to provide direct state aid for nuclear power. The paper is not scheduled to come before legislators until later in the summer, and is still a 'work in progress' but a draft has been leaked to the Greens-European Free Alliance bloc in the European parliament, which strongly opposes its pro-nuclear measures.
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".
But Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel has said in response that she is opposed to nuclear subsidies. Following the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, the German government passed a law to speed up its nuclear exit policy, a move that enjoyed broad support from the country's public. Instead, Germany spends large amounts of cash in state subsidies to support the country's renewable power policy, and its government is concerned that these subsidies would lose their intended impact if competing energy technologies such as nuclear power were 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 for decommissioning, the treatment, management and disposal of nuclear waste.
However the Commission has not officially backed the proposal. It states 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".