The future of Britain's nuclear reactors and fuel supplies are at risk if the government makes a clean break from the EU without making transitional arrangements, a new report argues.
The government confirmed in January the UK would sever ties with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) when it left the EU, causing concern about Britain's plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.
A report today by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) argues the government must act fast to develop a suitable transitional framework to replace Euratom, the 1957 treaty that enables a single market of goods and services for nuclear projects as well as creating trade deals.
Without transitional arrangements, the UK is at risk of losing access to the markets and skills it needs to construct new nuclear power plants, and existing stations may be unable to access fuel, said Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the IME and lead author of the report.
However, if done correctly, negotiations could propel Britain to global leader status in new nuclear build, decommissioning and radioactive waste disposal, the IME report said.
"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," Baxter said.
The report recommends the government take a three-prong approach to securing Britain's future in nuclear energy.
It recommends developing a framework to provide the UK nuclear industry with the same provisions as Euratom, creating new Nuclear Cooperation Agreements with Euratom and non-EU trading countries and enabling innovative commercial opportunities to sell nuclear services and waste treatment technology to world trade partners through the National Decommissioning Authority.