The British government is seeking to head off potential legal challenges to its Hinkley Point C nuclear power project by holding a “golden share” in the £24.5bn EDF facility.

The Independent reports that Matthew Hancock, energy and business minister, revealed in a UK Parliamentary answer that there had been “initial discussions” over a golden share, which would provide certain special voting rights. Theoretically, this could include blocking a change of ownership of Hinkley should the French company EDF ever be sold, or to ensure that the supply chain meets certain health and safety standards.
Matthew Hancock
The news comes as Germany’s energy minister voiced criticism of any legislation that enabled public subsidies to nuclear power, without mentioning directly the Hinkley project.

“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.”

The anti-nuclear Austrian government is also preparing to launch a lawsuit over what it believes is an unfair subsidy, a move that has sparked a diplomatic row, with the UK threatening counter-claims on other energy-related issues.

Luxembourg is expected to second Austria’s challenge while a German law firm, Beck Buttner Held (BBH), is representing Greenpeace Energy, a co-operative of energy suppliers and traders fighting the decision in a commercial action.

A DECC spokesman confirmed that negotiations over the golden share were “on-going”.

Meanwhile other member states are waiting to produce nuclear power strategies of their own, once the Hinkley project finally clears the remaining barriers to its operation.

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”.

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