The UK’s nuclear power industry is warning the government that as it moves forward with Brexit, it will need to replace the European Euratom nuclear treaty with new international nuclear deals. If the UK fails to do so, the industry warned of a “dramatic impact” on nuclear power in Britain.
The government is currently set to quit the Euratom treaty as part of the Brexit process. In a briefing the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) will deliver to the government Wednesday, they warn that UK ministers need to steer clear of a “cliff edge” as they back out of the Euratom treaty, in order to avoid a “major disruption to business across the whole nuclear fuel cycle.”
The briefing comes a day after MP’s said the continued operation of Britain’s nuclear industry would be at risk from an exit from the Euratom treaty. On Tuesday, a Lord’s committee added that the UK risked losing access to markets and skilled workers upon leaving the Euratom treaty.
According to NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex:
“We’ve had today two select committee reports that have both touched on this. The industry has been and is clear to government we are ready to do what we can – but it needs the government to get on with this and engage now, regardless of all the other issues they have to deal with.”
He added that Theresa May’s decision to call for a general election had limited the time available to establish alternatives to the treaty, making the situation even worse.
The Euratom treaty was signed in 1957, by Italy, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. The treaty covers matters relating to nuclear power inspections and trade in materials and research. Leaving the treaty will mean the UK needs to organize a new agreement on inspections with the International Atomic Energy Agency to replace the Euratom inspectors.
“If the UK has not replaced the Euratom safeguards regime with its own system by the time it left Euratom, normal business could be disrupted right across the nuclear industry,” according to the NIA briefing.
Exiting the treaty would also disrupt agreements with countries like Australia, Japan, and the US, since those agreements are based on the Euratom treaty.
The report adds:
“Leaving the Euratom treaty without alternative arrangements in place would have a dramatic impact on the nuclear industry including the UK’s new build plans, existing operations and the waste and decommissioning sector which all depend, to some extent, on cooperation with nuclear states.”
Nuclear experts echoed the urgency of the industry’s warning.
According to government spokesperson: “The UK has a world-leading nuclear industry and the government is working to ensure effective arrangements remain in place for nuclear co-operation with both Europe and the rest of the world. We will remain absolutely committed to the highest standards of nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry.”