UK on track with post-Euratom preparations

11 June 2018

The UK last week completed two more milestones in its preparations to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). On 7 June, Parliament passed the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and government officials signed new international safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA-UK  safeguards agreement - 460 (BEIS)
David Hall, Ambassador and UK Resident Representative to IAEA and UK Governor on IAEA Board of Governors (left) with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano following the signing of the new safeguards agreement (Image: Dean Calma/IAEA)

The Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in a joint statement the two developments "provide certainty to the civil nuclear industry and international partners" as the UK prepares for its withdrawal from Euratom when it leaves the European Union in March next year.

In addition, the UK recently signed a new Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the USA, the first in a series of new international agreements "ensuring uninterrupted cooperation and trade", they added.

Nuclear safeguards are important processes through which the UK demonstrates to the international community that civil nuclear material is not diverted into military or weapons programmes, they said, while the agreements with the IAEA - the Voluntary Offer Agreement and Additional Protocol - provide the basis for civil nuclear trading arrangements.

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill will amend the Energy Act 2013 to provide the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) with a new safeguards' function and create new powers for the Secretary of State at BEIS to put in place regulations setting out the detail of the domestic safeguards regime. The Bill will also create a limited power for the Secretary of State to amend three existing pieces of legislation to update references to the new IAEA agreements. The new safeguards regime to be established in the UK will be operated by the ONR, which already regulates nuclear safety and security in the UK and has been making preparation to replace Euratom as the regulator of safeguards.

The UK has been a member of the IAEA since its formation in 1957. The signing of new bilateral agreements with the Vienna-based agency will replace existing trilateral arrangements between the IAEA, Euratom and the UK. The government statement noted that the new agreements ensure that the IAEA retains its right to inspect all civil nuclear facilities, and continues to receive current safeguards reporting, thereby ensuring that international verification of our safeguards activity continues to be robust. Such agreements have been put in place on a voluntary basis by the five nuclear-weapon States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Welcoming the IAEA Board of Director's approval for the UK Voluntary Offer Agreement, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Assocation, said: "It is the first in a series of international agreements which need to be negotiated, agreed and ratified with a number of third countries, and the practical arrangements relating to the UK's safeguarding regime need to be finalised - including recruitment, training, systems and equipment."

He added: "Industry continues to work with government to assist in this process, but it remains of critical importance that the government finalise negotiations on a transitional framework for the UK before it leaves the EU and Euratom in March 2019. To minimise the risk of future arrangements not being ready at the time the UK ceases to be part of Euratom."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News