The European Atomic Energy Community was set up in 1957 – as a founding ‘pillar’ of the EEC alongside the Treaty of Rome – to foster cooperation in the development of nuclear energy and ensures high standards of protection for workers and the public from nuclear power, decommissioning, spent fuel and radioactive substances.
Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, MSP, stated Scotland’s preference to remain as full members of the Euratom and if that is not possible, for the UK to seek associate membership. She also voiced her concerns at the lack of consultation and clarity around proposals to withdraw from Euratom through the Brexit process. She said:
“If this is not possible, as a result of the UK Government’s negotiations on taking Britain out of the EU, then we would favour a form of associate membership of Euratom that maintains close joint arrangements on the widest range of issues, including external assurance and inspection.”
In a letter to British Energy minister Greg Clark, MP, Cunningham added: “As the arrangements for the future affect devolved areas, it is crucial that the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations are fully involved in discussions about the options for our future relationship with Euratom, and any replacement arrangements that are needed.
“Although the UK Government is focusing first on some of the key reserved areas, such as nuclear safeguarding, this will set the pattern for the full range of policy areas so we need to be working together on the future shape of arrangements from the outset.
“Whatever future arrangements are put in place, I would like a guarantee that Scotland will not lose any of the devolved competence that we have over radioactive substances regulation, including waste and emissions.”
The SNP Scot-Govt is adamantly against future development of any new nuclear plants and – under devolved powers to Holyrood – will not grant planning consent to any forthcoming proposal to build new nuclear power plants in Scotland under current technologies.
However, the SNP accepts that lifetime extensions for the pre-existing operational Scottish nuclear power stations could help maintain security of supply while the transition to renewable and alternative thermal generation takes place.
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, commented: “Reports that there was no impact assessment undertaken by the government before deciding to trigger leaving Euratom are very concerning.
“While the industry has provided government with detailed information to help them understand the role of Euratom, it has also repeatedly been made clear to government that the industry’s preferred position is retain membership of Euratom.
“It is important now that the government ensures there is regular and constant dialogue with the industry, so they can understand the full consequences of decisions they will take over the period ahead.”
The Euratom treaty also includes the development, storage and transport of radioactive medical isotopes, as Greatrex, explained:
“While medical isotopes are not classed as special fissile material and so not subject to safeguarding provisions, it is not accurate to say that Euratom has no impact on radio isotopes used to diagnose and treat serious conditions.
“We are not able to produce them in the UK, so they are imported mostly from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“As they are listed in the Euratom treaty (appendix A2) as part of the common area in nuclear goods, services and material, they are subject to the treaty. With half-lives of days, the ability to trade and move isotopes constantly is required.
“It is imperative that the government ensures there is no impediment to the supply of isotopes as a consequence of leaving Euratom.”
For further information: Euratom Treaty, Annex A2, Page 66: https://europa.eu/european-union/sites/europaeu/files/docs/body/consolidated_version_of_the_treaty_establishing_the_european_atomic_energy_community_en.pdf
British Govt. offers conditional support for nuclear fusion deal with EU
Coincidentally, the British government last month – conditionally – pledged to meet its fair share of funding for the nuclear fusion JET project until the end of 2020.
Based in Oxfordshire, the JET project is home to the world’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion reactor and has led global efforts to develop a clean, safe energy source. It supports 1,300 jobs in the UK, 600 of which are highly skilled scientists and engineers.
Energy Minister Greg Clark said the government is willing to maintain research collaboration with European partners after Brexit by committing to underwrite UK funding for the Joint European Torus (JET) project.
He said: “Subject to the EU extending the UK’s contract to host the world-class nuclear fusion facility beyond 2018, the UK has agreed to underwrite its fair share of JET’s running costs.”