UK’s break from EU could threaten nuclear fuel supplies and new reactor build

Published:  17 March, 2017

The UK Government’s plans to leave the EU, and consequently the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), could threaten plans to build new nuclear reactors and decommissioning activities, as well as jeopardise energy security due to the impact on nuclear fuel supplies, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The ‘Leaving the EU: the Euratom Treaty’ report calls for Government to urgently develop a suitable transitional framework before leaving the EU, and for the need for the UK to create new Nuclear Cooperation Agreements to enable new nuclear trade deals with both EU and non-EU countries.

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Lead Author of the report, said: “The UK’s departure from Euratom must not be seen as an after-thought 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 Cooperation 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. There needs to be a thorough framework in place to provide assurances on nuclear safety, nuclear proliferation and environmental issues.

“Making these transitional arrangements will be difficult, particularly given the short time-scale, 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.”

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