The financing plan for two nuclear power plants was approved yesterday for locations in Somerset, England – just 150 miles off of Ireland’s coast.
The controversial decision was put to a vote among the College of Commissioners in Brussels – Irish Commissioner Maire Geoghegan Quinn was absent and unable to cast a vote, however, due to a bioeconomy conference in Italy.
The European Commission made the final decision to approve the financial plan, and the EU’s executive arm ruled in favor of a state guarantee of $16 billion to build at Somerset’s Hinkley Point. Sixteen commissioners voted in favor of the project; 15 votes were needed for approval.
Austria, a country that supports green energy, stood fervently against it, describing it as a “bad precedent,” while Britain welcomed the decision as “excellent news,” the Irish Times reported. The plant is set to provide seven percent of Britain’s electricity generation.
Britain pulled out of a greener deal with Ireland earlier in the year, in which Ireland was to export wind energy to Britain – a memorandum of understanding had been signed in January 2013, just two months before Britain granted permission for the nuclear power plant.
In August, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency argued that that the British government should have consulted with Ireland under the terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment, but Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled against the case.
Greenpeace referred to the decision as a “sell-out to the nuclear industry at the expense of taxpayers and the environment,” saying that the commission had cleared a plan for taxpayers to heavily subsidize the plant’s construction.
EU commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the commissioners did not discuss their personal political views in the decision-making process – the decision was made solely on the grounds of state-aid rules, and the panel has ensured that each future decision regarding the process will stay within bounds of state-aid rules as well.