Austria has launched a lawsuit against the European Commission over its approval of state subsidies for the construction of two new reactors (Paks II) at Hungary’s Paks NPP. Hungary was permitted to start construction of the new units this year as planned, after the EC last March approved commitments Hungary made to limit distortions in competition. The Commission concluded that, although Hungary's financial support for the Paks II project involves state aid, this was acceptable under EU state aid rules on the basis of these commitments.
Austrian Sustainability Minister Elisabeth Köstinger announced in January that Austria intended to file a lawsuit against the EC and the deadline for filing the was 25 February. "We announced this lawsuit a few weeks ago and now we are bringing it in," she said on 22 February. The case will now be considered by the European Court of Justice and a notice will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union within the next few months.
The Paks NPP currently comprises four operating Russian-supplied VVER-440 pressurised water reactors, which started up between 1982 and 1987. Under an inter-governmental agreement signed in early 2014, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and international sub-contractors are to supply two new VVER-1200 reactors supported by a Russian state loan of up to €10.0bn ($11.2bn) to finance 80% of the project. Project company MVM Paks II received an environmental licence in September 2016 and in October applied for a site licence for the two new units, which was issued by the Hungarian National Atomic Energy Office in March 2017. Unit 1 is to be completed in 2025 and unit 2 in 2026.
Austria’s new government, an alliance between conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party, has pledged to continue Austria’s long-standing opposition to nuclear power. “Nuclear energy has no place in Europe. We will not deviate from this line by even a centimetre,” said Koestinger. Austria launched similar legal action against the EC in 2015 over its backing for UK plans to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.