UK nuclear industry faces prospect of Euratom exit

The UK intends to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), according to explanatory notes to a bill the government published yesterday authorising Brexit. The notes state the bill empowers the prime minister to leave both the European Union and Euratom.

The peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU is governed by the 1957 Euratom Treaty. The Euratom Community is a separate legal entity from the EU, but it is governed by the bloc’s institutions.

Nuclear power plants generate almost 30% of the electricity produced in the EU – from 130 reactor units in operation in 14 EU countries. Each EU country decides alone whether to include nuclear power in its energy mix or not, but Euratom establishes a common market in nuclear goods, services, capital and people within the EU.

The Euratom framework also includes nuclear co-operation agreements with third party countries, including Canada, Japan and the USA. It facilitates UK participation in long-term research and development (R&D) projects, and it also provides a framework for international nuclear safeguard compliance.

In response to the bill, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), said the UK nuclear industry has “made it crystal clear” to the government that its preferred position is to maintain membership of Euratom.

Peter Haslam, NIA’s head of policy, noted that the government has stated leaving Euratom is a result of leaving the EU because, “they are uniquely legally joined”.

A spokesman for Horizon told World Nuclear News (WNN): “Whilst the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom would present issues that would need to be addressed we are confident these can be resolved on a timescale that keeps us on schedule to successfully deliver our lead project, Wylfa Newydd. The government has indicated that it is determined to ensure there are no negative impacts from withdrawal and we welcome this commitment.”

Some media reports suggested that the UK’s new nuclear power plant projects – owned by EDF Energy, Horizon Nuclear Power and NuGeneration – will be delayed by a government decision to quit Euratom.

EDF Energy and its partner China General Nuclear plan to build two European Pressurised Water reactors in Somerset. NuGen, the UK joint venture between Japan’s Toshiba and France’s Engie, plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at Moorside, in West Cumbria using AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba. Horizon, a 100% subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, plans to deploy the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor at two sites – Wylfa Newydd, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in South Gloucestershire.

Courtesy WNN
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