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UK’s break from EU could threaten nuclear fuel supplies and reactor build, report says

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The government’s plans to leave the EU, and consequently the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), could threaten plans to build more nuclear reactors and decommissioning activities, as well as jeopardise energy security due to the impact on nuclear fuel supplies, according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The report titled Leaving the EU: the Euratom Treaty calls for government to urgently develop a suitable transitional framework before leaving the EU, and for the need for the UK to create revised nuclear cooperation agreements (NCAs) to enable nuclear trade deals with both EU and non-EU countries. 

Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the IMechE and lead author of the report, said: “The UK’s departure from Euratom must not be seen as an after-thought to leaving the EU. Without suitable transitional arrangements, the UK runs the risk of not being able to access the markets and skills that enable the construction of nuclear power plants and existing power stations may also potentially be unable to access fuel.

“With the Article 50 process taking just two years, the government must act quickly to start the process to develop NCAs to enable international trade, for goods such as nuclear fuels and research. Government must also make sure that the UK will be able to access sector specific skills not currently available in the UK, such as centrifuge technology expertise. There needs to be a thorough framework in place to provide assurances on nuclear safety, nuclear proliferation and environmental issues.

“Making these transitional arrangements will be difficult, particularly given the short time-scale, but if done correctly could present the UK with opportunities to speed up the process of developing nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities, boost UK nuclear skills as well as open up the UK to more international trade deals.”

The report also recommends providing the nuclear industry with an alternative state system of accountancy and control, creating the same provision as Euratom prior to leaving the EU and Euratom treaties. The report also suggest enabling commercial opportunities to sell nuclear services and waste treatment technology to world trade partners through the National Decommissioning Authority.

The intention that the UK should leave Euratom was announced in the recent Brexit Bill, in part due to Euratom being enforced by the European Court of Justice and managed by EU institutions.

To read the full report, click here
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