The Government responds to the nuclear report on the impact of Brexit
The government has issued a response to the recent report regarding the impact of Brexit on the nuclear sector. The government has emphasised that the UK must be able to operate responsibly and independently in regards to the nuclear industry once it leaves the EU.
The Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) published a second report called ‘Leaving the EU: Implications for the civil nuclear sector’ which stressed the government to agree a ‘close as possible relationship’ with Euratom to reduce the ‘unnecessary costs’ and ensure greater stability for the UK nuclear industry.
The UK government responded earlier this month saying that the report and its suggestions are a ‘valuable contribution’ to the overall project work that the Government is doing towards a departure from the EU and Euratom, including its detailed negotiations and domestic plans for departure.
Negotiations on the UK existing from the EU and Euratom continue and the Government has emphasised that they are putting in all necessary measures to ensure the UK will be capable of operating independently as a nuclear state. The Government highlighted that they had made good progress with Euratom in regards to departure plans, including wider discussions on legal and technical problems relating to nuclear materials and waste. Further discussion with Euratom will now focus more on their future relationship with the UK.
The Government has suggested that it will be mutually beneficial for both the UK and EU to have a close relationship with Euratom. The government is working closely with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to make plans for it to be in a position provide the necessary role to ensure the future UK nuclear industry will meet the international standards and other non-proliferation standards once the existing safeguards implemented by Euratom are removed from the UK.
Reports suggest the UK will be capable of providing a domestic plan to international standards until March 2019. However, the Government is committed to expanding this further and creating standards that meet the current plans created by Euratom.
UK industry officials are also in discussions with North America, Japan, and Australia to create a bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCAs) to allow cooperation and trade to continue with no interruptions when the UK leaves the EU and Euratom. The Government has suggested the drafting of the NCA plans will be complete by end of 2018 and agreements will be operational early 2019.
The Government has highlighted that the nuclear sector continues to be of ‘key strategic importance’ and that they want to ensure projects and investment such as Hinkley Point C are not affected by Brexit. The Government also highlighted that the departure from the EU and Euratom will not affect their plans and ambitions towards nuclear research and development. The Government maintains that creating ‘world-leading’ expertise in fusion projects is a priority for the UK.
The chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, Tom Greatrex has emphasised that the UK decision to leave Euratom has been ‘time-consuming’ and an ‘unpredictable process’ and is still only in the early stages. Greatrex highlighted that the UK needs to finalise negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IEA) on a Voluntary Agreement and Additional Protocol, and confirm new NCAs with North America, Japan and Australia. The UK also requires a confirmed funding agreement to enable the continuation of its participation in R&D activities led by Euratom.
Greatrex has stressed that these need to be agreed and actioned before we depart from Euratom. Greatrex emphasises that within the Brexit negotiations, Euratom needs to remain a priority by the Government in order to reduce any potential disruption to the future of the nuclear industry.
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