NIA sets out six priorities for Euratom exit

03 May 2017

The UK government needs to work closely with industry to bring about replacement arrangements for the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in a timely manner for the country's nuclear industry, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) says in a position paper published today. The NIA represents more than 260 companies including nuclear power station operators, new build developers and vendors, those engaged in decommissioning, waste management, all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, supply chain and consultancy companies.

The NIA said its paper, Exiting Euratom, sets out the priority areas for negotiations with the European Commission as the UK ceases to be a full member of the Euratom community alongside the process to leave the European Union. It also sets out the steps the government needs to take "to avoid serious disruption to normal nuclear business" in the UK and across the EU.

The government announced the UK intends to leave Euratom in explanatory notes to a bill it published in January authorising Brexit. The notes state the bill empowers the prime minister to leave both the EU and Euratom. On 29 March, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, marking the start of two years of negotiations to thrash out a deal for Brexit. Earlier this month, May called a snap general election for 8 June, stating that divisions at Westminster risked hampering the talks.

The NIA has listed six key steps it wants the government to take: agreeing a replacement Voluntary Offer Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency for a new UK safeguards regime; replacing the Nuclear Co-operation Agreements (NCA) with key nuclear markets - Australia, Canada, the Euratom Community, Kazakhstan, South Korea and the USA; clarifying the validation of the UK's current bilateral NCAs 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 EU nuclear R&D programs; and maintaining confidence in the industry and securing crucial investment.

The London-based trade association said 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 EU. Given the amount to be concluded within the next 22 months, however, there is a risk that new arrangements will not be in place, the NIA said.

Tom Greatrex, NIA chief executive, 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. 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 the UK 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 we think the government needs to take to address those issues.

"Government ministers have stated their desire to both work with industry and to ensure the same high standards will continue to apply as the UK leaves the EU - there is no disagreement on that principle. The government now needs to get down to the work of putting such arrangements in place, including a prudent approach to ensuring there are transitional arrangements in place, to avoid a gap in regulation. That would not be in the interests of the EU, the UK or the industry globally."

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, it added, by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in its report, Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision, which was published yesterday.

The 1957 Euratom Treaty governs the peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU. The Euratom Community is a separate legal entity from the EU, but it is governed by the bloc's institutions. The Euratom framework also includes nuclear cooperation agreements with third party countries, including Canada, Japan and the USA. It facilitates UK participation in long-term research and development (R&D) projects, and it also provides a framework for international nuclear safeguard compliance.

Nuclear power plants generate almost 30% of the electricity produced in the EU - from 130 reactor units in operation in 14 EU countries. Each EU country decides alone whether to include nuclear power in its energy mix or not, but Euratom establishes a common market in nuclear goods, services, capital and people within the EU. 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.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News