Britain’s nuclear programme facing uncertainty with Brexit vote
February 16, 2017

Last month the Government announced that the UK would leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) because it falls under the powers of the European Court of Justice. The Prime Minister has previously stated that leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ would be one of the red lines for leaving the EU in upcoming negotiations. The institution of Mechanical Engineers has therefore called on the Government to put plans in place for a UK nuclear state body to replace Euratom, in order to allow the UK to share research with other countries, while overseas participation in the UK nuclear industry would be impossible without treaties with foreign oversight bodies. Dr Baxter, head of the institution said “the UK’s departure from Euratom must not be seen as an afterthought to leaving the EU. Without suitable transitional arrangements, the UK runs the risk of not being able to access the markets and skills that enable the construction of new nuclear power plants, and existing power stations may also potentially be unable to access fuel. With the Article 50 process taking just two years, the UK government must act quickly to start the process to develop nuclear co-operation agreements (NCAs) to enable international trade, for goods such as nuclear fuels and research. Government must also make sure that the UK will be able to access sector-specific skills not currently available in the UK, such as centrifuge technology expertise . . . Making these transitional arrangements will be difficult, particularly given the short timescale, but if done correctly could present the UK with opportunities to speed up the process of developing new nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities, boost UK nuclear skills, as well as open up the UK to more international trade deals”. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Government stated: “[w]e remain absolutely committed to the highest standards of nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry. Our aim is clear: we want to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with the EU.”

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