Nuclear chiefs warn industry faces ‘considerable disruption’ on Brexit cliff-edge

Tom Greatrex
Tom Greatrex

The British government needs to work closely with industry in order to bring about replacement arrangements for Euratom in a timely manner to avoid a cliff-edge collapse for the nuclear industry.

This is the main message from the UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) in a new policy statement on Exiting Euratom – the EU-wide civil nuclear treaty.

The paper, prepared by the NIA following detailed consultation and discussion with operators and civil engineering supply-chain members, sets out the priority areas for negotiations with the EU as Britain ceases to be a full member of the Euratom community alongside the process to leave the EU.

The paper also sets out the steps the UK Government need to take to avoid ‘serious disruption to normal nuclear business in the UK’ and across the European Union. The key steps for government include: 

  •  Agreeing a replacement Voluntary Offer Agreement with the IAEA for a new UK safeguards regime
  • Replacing nuclear co-operation agreements with key nuclear markets; the Euratom Community, United States, Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan and South Korea
  • Clarifying the validation of the UK’s current bilateral Nuclear Co-operation Agreements with Japan and other nuclear states
  • Setting out the process for the movement of nuclear material, goods, people and services
  • Agreeing a new funding arrangement for the UK’s involvement in Fusion 4 Energy and wider European Union nuclear R&D programme, and
  • Maintaining confidence in the industry and securing crucial investment

Addressing these priority areas will enable the nuclear sector to continue its work with other countries, both within and outside the continuing EU, as the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union.

The nuclear industry generates a fifth of all electricity used in the UK, directly employs around 65,000 professionals and has the support of 71% of the public who believe nuclear must be part of a low carbon energy mix.

The power generated by existing power stations avoids the emissions of 49 million tonnes of CO₂ a year – the equivalent of taking 78% of Britain’s cars off the roads

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The UK civil nuclear industry is ready and willing to work with the government as it begins the process of putting replacement arrangements for Euratom in place. But the clock is ticking, and this is a priority of increasing urgency.

“This new report demonstrates that without new arrangements in place by the time Britain leaves the Euratom community, there is scope for real and considerable disruption. The industry has not only set out the priority areas to be addressed, but also the steps the government needs to take to address those issues.

“However, given the amount to be concluded within the next 22 months, there is a risk that new arrangements will not be in place. The NIA is urging the next British government to begin these negotiations by seeking an agreement with the EU that existing arrangements will continue to apply until the process of agreeing new arrangements is concluded, and avoiding the cliff edge scenario that is not in the interests of the industry, consumers, the UK or the EU.”

The NIA has called for a joint industry and Government working group to be created to help develop a plan to preserve the essential benefits of Euratom membership. This was also a key recommendation by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in its report published earlier this week.

You ran read the full Exiting Euratom report here:

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