Energy crisis: EU nation threatens to scupper UK’s nuclear plans over safety fears

UK has the 'best nuclear physicists in the world' says Dinan

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Vienna, which is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas, has officially raised concerns about the safety of the UK’s new nuclear designs. In a letter to the Business Department, Austria’s energy ministry has slammed the Sizewell C plant that is being constructed in Suffolk over concerns of “severe accidents with high releases”. Austria raised this concern with the UK’s plans under the Espoo Convention, which allows any nearby countries to comment on nuclear projects.

The EU nation is also mulling over the possibility of taking legal action against Britain in the coming months, in a bid to derail the Sizewell plans.

The UK’s two upcoming nuclear reactors, Hinkley and Sizewell, use a new reactor design called EPR, which is believed to be cleaner and more efficient than previous models.

Experts have widely agreed that the reactors are safe, and the projects were approved by British regulatory authorities after a five-year application process that cost £35million.

However, the Austrian government warned that it is “questionable” whether the new EPR design could guarantee that radioactive material will be safely contained within the reactor’s core.

They highlighted that the high power of the new reactors reduces the time an operator has to react to any fault and prevent a catastrophe.

They added: “At this time, it cannot be proven beyond doubt that severe accidents with high releases cannot occur.”

It is important to note that Vienna is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas imports for 80 percent of its supply.

The country has also bowed down to Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay for Russian gas in rubles and has previously vetoed sanctions against Russian energy imports to the EU.

Charlotte Nichols, a Labour MP and member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in Parliament, said the Austrians should focus less on nuclear power in Britain and more on their reliance on Russian energy imports.

She said: “Delivering Hinkley Point C, Britain’s biggest ever green infrastructure project, and getting started on Sizewell C, is vital to the UK reaching net zero.

“If I were in the Austrian government, I would be more concerned with the amount of Russian gas they are importing.”

A spokesman for EDF said: “We accept there are a range of opinions about nuclear power.

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“The fact is the EPR is a proven technology which has been thoroughly scrutinised by nuclear safety regulators in a number of countries, including the UK, who have approved it as safe.”

The UK has given special focus to nuclear power in its efforts to boost energy security.

Mr Johnson has announced plans to build eight new reactors by 2050, with a goal to have nuclear energy account for a quarter of the UK’s supply.

A Government spokesman said: “The UK has robust and effective safety regulations for nuclear facilities and plays a leading role in setting international safety standards.

“Our regulators would not allow a nuclear power station to be developed on a site, or to operate, if it was not safe to do so.”

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