Brexit transition could provide valuable time to prepare the UK nuclear industry

The transition period with the Brexit deal could provide the European nuclear industry enough time to agree on the supply of uranium, required materials and determine the labour requirements in the UK.

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The proposal to allow EU laws to be applicable to the UK until 2021 may provide the European nuclear industry further time to negotiate and confirm new agreements on uranium and labour supply.

EU ministers have proposed that the current EU acquis which includes the rights and obligations that all member states conform too should continue to apply to the UK until the end of 2020.

The proposal was suggested in a meeting in Brussels at the end of January. If agreed, the Euratom treaty will continue to apply to the UK nuclear industry until the end of 2020.

There have been recent concerns that the UK nuclear industry lacks a significant supply of labor. An extended transition period would allow the nuclear industry to prepare for this change and agree on new arrangements for the import of uranium and other nuclear materials. It is critical this is in place to ensure the industry continues to receive investment and continue the operation of existing nuclear sites across the UK.

Berta Picamal, the executive adviser at Foratom has emphasized that the UK nuclear industry is running out of time and a lot is needed to be done in a relatively short period of time. Picamal suggests that this ‘to do list’ should be completed by early 2019 in order to be in a good position come to the end of 2020.

Energy experts have indicated that the nuclear industry is more affected by Brexit than other energy sectors. The energy committee of the House of Lords stated their concerns over the development of Hinkley C nuclear plant and the feasibility of its development without proper access to skilled professionals from outside the UK.

Furthermore, a withdrawal from the existing Euratom treaty also raises concerns over energy security and the potential of power outages. The House of Lords report believes we should ensure the UK agrees on a transition deal for nuclear. Nuclear trading is very restrictive and the UK must ensure a deal is in place to avoid any complications in the future.

The current Euratom treaty provides the stability to manage and operate the existing power stations and future development of Hinkley Point. Whilst the European nuclear sector has experienced several challenges due to the phasing out of nuclear power in several nations and the accident in Fukushima, nuclear experts strongly believe nuclear is essential for the future. The Foratom director general highlights no emissions are generated from the nuclear industry which is a significant factor for the EU and their target to decarbonize the energy industry by 2050.

Further negotiations are due to take place between the EU and UK on the transition period in the coming days. The EU has suggested the UK will no longer be involved in the decision making during the transition period. The council of EU stated that whilst the UK could be invited to attend these meetings, they will not have influence or voting rights.

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