UK prepares legislation for Euratom exit

12 October 2017

The UK government has published in parliament its Nuclear Safeguards Bill to establish a domestic nuclear safeguards regime in preparation for the country's departure from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its first reading yesterday. This stage is formal and takes place without any debate. MPs will next consider the bill at second reading on 16 October.

As set out by Business Secretary Greg Clark on 14 September, the government is committed to a domestic nuclear safeguards regime which will deliver to existing Euratom standards, exceeding those required by the wider international community. The bill, first announced in the Queen's Speech on 21 June, will bolster the roles and responsibilities of the Office for Nuclear Regulation once the UK leaves Euratom. The government has said the UK will continue to be a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and work is ongoing on new agreements with international parties to ensure it continues to meet relevant international standards.

Energy Minister Richard Harrington said the "equivalent high standards of Euratom" are to be maintained.

"The Nuclear Safeguards Bill will help secure the future of the UK's nuclear industry and high standards of nuclear safety and safeguards once we leave Euratom," he said. "We are bringing forward the UK's first new nuclear power plants in a generation and it is in our mutual benefit to maintain the successful working relationship we have now with Europe, and the rest of the world, on nuclear matters. This is what we will be looking to secure in negotiations with our partners. Nuclear safeguards are processes which allow countries to show to the international community that civil nuclear material is used for peaceful purposes," he added.

The UK will withdraw from Euratom in 2019 as a result of the decision to leave the EU and the Nuclear Safeguards Bill will ensure that the UK has the right regime in place for the ONR to regulate nuclear safeguards, the minister said.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK's Nuclear Industry Association, said the Nuclear Safeguards Bill is "just one small part of the incredibly complex and time-consuming process to replicate existing regulation if we leave Euratom at the same time as the European Union".

The UK industry's primary concern, he said, remains "the risk of significant disruption if we cease to be members of Euratom without new arrangements being in place".

The bill does not provide reassurance on that, he added, and is why the government's priority should be seeking agreement with the European Commission to ensure there are transitional agreements in place, including continuing association to Euratom programmes.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News