The UK is set to get a green light from the European Commission to build the Hinkley Point C plant, the first new nuclear power station since 1995, after an agreement has been reached in a competition inquiry.
Since December, the Commission has been examining whether the UK government is in breach with EU competition rules by subsidising the project to be built by French EDF Energy.
"Our discussions with the UK authorities have led to an agreement,” said Antoine Colombani, EC spokesman for competition and for vice-president Joaquin Almunia. “On this basis, vice-president Almunia will propose to the college of commissioners to take a positive decision in this case. In principle a decision should be taken within this mandate."
Sources said approval for the £16bn plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset is expected in the next couple of weeks.
A spokesman for energy giant EDF welcomed the announcement: "Confirmation that vice-president Almunia recommends that the college of commissioners approve the agreement on Hinkley Point C is another positive step forward for this vital project.”
The spokesman reassured the approval comes well within the project’s timetable, allowing EDF and the UK government to begin the next phase of development.
"Hinkley Point C is an important project which will deliver Europe-wide objectives, offering the prospect of reliable, secure and low-carbon electricity for many decades to come as well as boosting jobs and skills," the spokesman said.
"The state aid investigation has been rigorous, robust and thorough and we expect that the college of commissioners will recognise this.”
However, environmental groups were less pleased with the investigation outcome: "Only a year ago the Commission said that Hinkley was 'in principle incompatible under EU state aid rules'. Now, under pressure from the UK Government and French nuclear operator EDF, the Commission is preparing to perform a U-turn,” said Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta.
"European Commissioners should oppose the plan and resist rushing through a controversial and far-reaching decision in the dying weeks of this Commission."