UK industry welcomes clarity on Euratom R&D

23 May 2018

The UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) has welcomed confirmation of the government's intention to seek associate status to Euratom R&D programmes. NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex stressed however that this is just one part of the current Euratom framework, and progress in replicating other vital areas is still needed before the UK leaves the treaty, as part of its exit from the European Union, in March 2019.

May at Jodrell Bank - 460 (UK Government)
Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at Jodrell Bank (Image:

One such programme is Horizon 2020 - the biggest EU research and innovation funding project - and the government last year made a commitment to underwrite UK funding of the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion project at Culham Laboratory, in Oxfordshire, until the end of 2020.

In a speech on 21 May on Science and the Modern Industrial Strategy, Prime Minister Theresa May said she wants the UK to have a "deep science partnership" with the EU. May, who was speaking at the Jodrell Bank Observatory - part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester - said she wanted to "spell out that commitment even more clearly".

She said: "The United Kingdom would like the option to fully associate ourselves with the excellence-based European science and innovation programmes - including the successor to Horizon 2020 and Euratom R&T. It is in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU that we should do so.

"Of course, such an association would involve an appropriate UK financial contribution, which we would willingly make. In return, we would look to maintain a suitable level of influence in line with that contribution and the benefits we bring. The UK is ready to discuss these details with the Commission as soon as possible."

Culham Laboratory is the world's leading centre for magnetic fusion energy research and JET is the world's most powerful tokamak. In December, the UK Atomic Energy Authority welcomed the government's investment of GBP86 million (USD115 million) that will fund the building and operation of a National Fusion Technology Platform (NaFTeP) at Culham Science Centre, which is expected to open in 2020.

Greatrex said scientific innovation "lies at the heart" of the UK civil nuclear sector, noting the country has world-leading fusion research at Culham in Oxfordshire.

"There are thousands of highly skilled personnel working on the Euratom funded fusion R&D programme, many of whom have felt uncertain about the future of their jobs since the referendum. That is why the UK civil nuclear industry has long called for an association between the UK and Euratom, so this important collaborative scientific research can continue in the UK," he said.

"It is welcome that the UK government has acknowledged the benefits of the UK's participation in these Euratom programmes and is seeking an association agreement that will enable that to continue. That is a benefit to the UK, to the rest of the European Union and to the global scientific community, and I hope the European Commission respond positively," he added.

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 nuclear industry generates a fifth of all electricity used in the UK, directly employs around 64,000 professionals and has the support of 74% of the public. In 2016 its activities directly contributed GBP6.4 billion to UK GDP.

Written and researched
by World Nuclear News