By George Lekakis
The Daily Telegraph
April 03, 2007
The Daily Telegraph
April 03, 2007
GREECE yesterday ruled out the prospect of becoming a buyer of Australian uranium despite international pressure to adopt new sources of power generation.
Members of the European Union, including Greece, are now investing in alternatives to coal-fired power after last month committing to aggressive targets for lowering greenhouse emissions.
But the country's finance minister, George Alogoskoufis, yesterday told BusinessDaily that nuclear power was not part of the Greek Government's plans for future electricity generation.
"We are investing heavily in natural gas (and) we're looking at biofuels, solar energy and wind energy," he said. "Now, nuclear is a 'no-go' in Greece, although we realise other European countries have derived many benefits from nuclear energy.
"But given that Greece is a relatively small area and given we are also prone to earthquakes there is a lot of aversion to nuclear energy."
The reluctance to embrace nuclear power means that Greece will find it difficult to meet EU emissions targets.
Greece relies heavily on brown coal to produce electricity and 40 per cent of national greenhouse emissions are generated by PPC, a state-owned power company.
Under the EU targets, Greece has to stem emissions by 25 per cent over the next five years.
Mr Alogoskoufis, who is leading a Greek trade delegation in Melbourne this week, has been a key player in the recent rejuvenation of the Greek economy which has seen foreign investment increase by more than 200 per cent since 2003.
He is also driving the privatisation of state assets and is considering a proposal to offload the government's 55 per cent stake in Athens Airport.
The Greek Government is evaluating options for executing the sale, including a stock market float or a trade sale.
A sale of the airport will have implications for local investors in the Australian Infrastructure Fund.
The AIF owns 5.3 per cent of the Athens facility through a strategic interest in German investment fund -- Hochtief AirPort Capital.
It is understood that AIF and Hochtief are keen to move to full ownership of the airport by negotiating a trade sale on the government holding. The sale of the majority stake in the airport has been complicated by the uncertainty surrounding the future of the national air carrier, Olympic Airlines.
A float of the Olympic business was thrown into turmoil two years ago when the European Union found that the airline had received illegal subsidies from the national government.
"We're in negotiations with the European Union to determine whether Olympic has to return to the state any funds," Mr Alogoskoufis said.
A spokesman for the minister later said that a sale of the airline was preferable before the airport stake was sold, but was "not necessarily a prerequisite".
Mr Alogoskoufis is scheduled to meet Federal Treasurer Peter Costello in Melbourne tomorrow, before taking the trade roadshow to Sydney.
Shares in Australian Infrastructure Fund closed down 2 to $2.74.
Although Greece has established Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), a decision has been made not to implement a nuclear power program to generate nuclear electricity. There is one operational nuclear research reactor and one sub-critical assembly. The country believes due to its small size and earthquakes in the region, nuclear power would not provide many benefits. Greece did receive electricity produced by nuclear power from Bulgaria in the past. However, with the shutdown of two Bulgarian reactors in 2006, these imports are almost non-existent.