More needed to allay nuclear industry fears over Brexit, warns NIA

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Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 10:30PM

Moves by the Government to safeguard the UK’s nuclear industry post Brexit need to go further if fears of “significant disruption” are to be allayed, according to the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA).

The Government published its Nuclear Safeguards Bill in Parliament on Wednesday (October 11), in a bid to establish a domestic nuclear safeguards regime to replace the current arrangements with Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community).

Nuclear safeguards are processes which allow countries to show to the international community that civil nuclear material is used for peaceful purposes – and cover everything from inspections and trade to movement of materials and research.

Britain will withdraw from Euratom at the same time as it leaves the EU in 2019.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the NIA, said the publication of the bill was “one small part of the incredibly complex and time-consuming process to replicate existing regulation”.

“The UK industry’s primary concern remains the risk of significant disruption if we cease to be members of Euratom without new arrangements being in place.

“This Bill does not provide reassurance on that, 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.”

Mr Greatrex has already warned that leaving Euratom has the potential to hit Britain’s electricity supply and disrupt nuclear new build project.

Euratom is a separate legal entity to the EU, but is tied up with its laws and institutions, including the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It has a permanent presence at the Sellafield nuclear site in west Cumbria, where debate about membership is being closely watched.

The Government says it plans to introduce nuclear safeguards that deliver to existing Euratom standards and will continue to be a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency so it can continue to meet relevant international standards.

The Bill looks to bolster the roles and responsibilities of the UK’s existing nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, to replace many of the functions currently provided by Euratom.

Energy Minister Richard Harrington said the Government said the Bill will help secure the future of the UK nuclear industry.

“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,” he said.

“This is what we will be looking to secure in negotiations with our partners.”

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