UK Atomic Energy Authority assesses Euratom exit

14 February 2017

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has published a statement from Jo Johnson, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, giving assurance on the future of research into fusion energy.

The government outlined its position regarding the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in the white paper on Brexit it published on 2 February. In the UK, a white paper is a report giving information or proposals on an issue.

The white paper followed the government's publication of a bill that would empower the prime minister to leave both the European Union and Euratom. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) bill received the approval of Members of Parliament on 1 February. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she plans to start the formal process of the UK leaving the EU by the end of March.

The white paper says the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 "makes clear" that, in UK law, references to the EU includes Euratom. The Euratom Treaty "imports Article 50 into its provisions".

Membership of Euratom is also a condition for Britain hosting what is currently the largest nuclear fusion experiment in the world. Based at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, the Joint European Torus (JET) project involves some 350 scientists exploring the potential of fusion power, backed by funding from almost 40 countries in the EUROfusion consortium.

UKAEA said today that leaving Euratom "has obvious implications" - especially the continued operation of JET after 2018 and the UK's continued participation in the Iter project in France. The Iter fusion reactor will be JET's successor on the route to developing commercial fusion power.

Johnson wrote to the UKAEA: "The research done at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is rightly recognised as world class and it has driven UK leadership in fusion R&D for many years. The government has no intention of compromising this position following the decision to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty.

"Leaving Euratom is a result of the decision to leave the EU as they are uniquely legally joined. The UK supports Euratom, and we value international collaboration in fusion research and the UK's key role in these efforts.

"Maintaining and building on our world-leading fusion expertise and securing alternative routes into the international fusion R&D projects such as the [JET] project at Culham and the Iter project in France, will be a priority.

"The government is working closely with the UKAEA management and board on ways to achieve this."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News