SNP trigger nuclear threat to new Hinkley atom power plant in Brexit

The SNP has criticised the UK government for going ahead with a “baseless Brexit” as the government confirmed it will exit from Euratom – the regulator responsible for nuclear safety and security across the EU – in parallel with British Independence from the EU-bloc.

The Euratom Treaty is not part of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and as later amended, but co-exists alongside the EU treaties.

The exit from Euratom was pushed in the explanatory footnotes of the UK government’s five paragraph bill for the triggering of Article 50.

The SNP has repeatedly pressed the UK government to publish a White Paper on their Brexit plans before the legislation reaches ‘Committee Stage’, to allow proper scrutiny of the government’s position on key policy issues, including nuclear energy.

MP Hannah Bardell, the SNP spokesman in the Westminster parliament on Small Business, Enterprise & Innovation, commented: “The Nuclear Industry Association has already stressed that the preferred position is to maintain UK membership of Euratom.

“”This government seeks to put nuclear energy at the heart of its energy strategy. Yet, leaving the agency will be of significant concern to the security of markets, businesses and workers in that sector.”

Leading legal and nuclear energy experts have warned that quitting the Euratom treaty could lead to costly delays in EDF (which owns and operates the two Scottish nuclear power stations) actually building the £18bn new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point because of the need to re-negotiate similar terms for the UK outwith the EU-bloc.

Dr Paul Dorfman of University College London, said: “Leaving Euratom is a lose-lose for everyone. For nuclear proponents, the industry becomes less competitive – and for nuclear critics, safety regulation diminishes.

“The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increas nuclear costs and will mean further delays.”

Councillor Ernie Galsworthy, Chairman of the pan-UK Nuclear-Free Local Authority association, commented: “The decision for the UK Government to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty is not a surprising one given the Brexit vote but it has huge implications not just for new nuclear build, but nuclear safety, regulation and security.

“Whilst NFLA hopes this will be the decision that leads to the end of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ in the UK and see moves to restore support for renewables, it also wants to ensure a break with Euratom does not lead to any break with a strong and robust nuclear safety regime across Europe. With Toshiba’s nuclear plans now also seemingly in chaos, it is time to take the life support machine off new nuclear and embrace renewables in the same way as so many of our fellow EU states have already done.”

Nuclear fusion tests start in France

Meanwhile, NRG has started irradiation testing of a high-tech new type of metal that will be used for the future ITER nuclear fusion reactor in Southern France (pictured).

That reactor should prove whether nuclear fusion is a renewable and safe energy source.

This is the second important contribution to ITER this year of the High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten. In September, NRG started testing components of the wall that will encase the 150 million degree fusion process in the core, called the first wall. Now, together with Swedish company Studsvik NRG will characterize stainless steel of the type Eurofer97 to be used to contain the ITER reactor component in which tritium will be produced.

Tritium and deuterium are hydrogen isotopes that are fused into helium during the fusion process, similar to the processes that takes place in the sun and by which large amounts of energy can be generated. Eurofer97 is a specially developed low-activation steel, in which the composition is tailored such that long term radioactivity after exposure to radiation in ITER is significantly reduced.

The test should demonstrate that Eurofer97 is sufficiently resistant against the radiation environment in ITER. NRG will test the materials under similar conditions as in the future nuclear fusion reactor. That means that the steel will be exposed to the same neutron radiation and temperature as in the ITER plant.

ITER is the largest international joint venture in the field of energy in which the EU, Japan, South Korea, China, India, the US and Russia are taking part. In Cadarache in Southern France, the nuclear fusion reactor that will produce 500 megawatts of energy should be operational by 2025. The main aim is to demonstrate that nuclear fusion is a viable energy source, with no emissions of COgases and long-lived radioactive waste.

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