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Politics ‘must not undermine’ energy, says industry, as nuclear storm brews

Amit Katwala

(Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

A new report highlights Brexit as the chief concern of those working in the UK energy industry.

The 2017 Energy Industry Barometer surveyed 939 members of the Energy Institute. They said access to a skilled workforce after Brexit should be prioritised, and that EU energy and climate laws should be retained to ensure no disruption in supply or prices. “Workforce availability and the smooth transition of energy and climate change laws need to be priorities,” said Jim Skea, president of the Energy Institute.

“The stakes are high for the UK’s energy economy,” commented Steve Halliday, former CEO of the National Grid. “The potential is there for significant industrial benefit and emission reduction at least cost to consumers and taxpayers, but sound policy making should not be drowned out by Brexit or other political upheavals.”

Nuclear power stood out as the only area where respondents thought the government's policies had created a positive impact in the last twelve months, thanks to the green light being given for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

However, there is a backdrop of uncertainty for the UK’s nuclear industry, with the government committed to withdrawing from Euratom, the continent wide regulatory association.

The British government announced a new bill to replace European safeguards for the nuclear industry with new British ones as part of last week’s Queen’s Speech, but according to The Times, experts have warned that it could be a lengthy process.

If time runs out before new regulations are struck, the UK’s nuclear plants, research facilities and hospitals could find themselves unable to import radioactive material. “The process of replicating safeguarding inspections, agreeing a series of nuclear co-operation agreements with other countries (including EU states), and guaranteeing world-leading international research into fusion at Culham in Oxfordshire, is complex and likely to be subject to intensive negotiation,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.

“In a week when the Chancellor has said leaving the EU should be done in a way that minimises the impact on jobs, growth and economic activity, the UK Government must ensure this is the case. If they are absolutely wedded to leaving Euratom, there must be transitional arrangements in place to prevent a damaging cliff-edge in 21 months’ time.”

He said finding a way to remain in Euratom would be an “infinitely preferable outcome”. 


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