The UK's nuclear sector faces a "cliff edge" when Britain exits Euratom

Courtney Goldsmith
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Grafenrheinfeld Nuclear Power Plant To Cease Operation
The UK's nuclear industries are at risk of a bad Brexit deal (Source: Getty)

The government must work closely with the nuclear industry to develop a replacement for the European nuclear treaty, Euratom, and avoid a "cliff edge" for the sector when the UK leaves the EU, the nuclear trade body said today.

Euratom is a treaty within the EU that enables free movement of nuclear professionals, materials, equipment and associated investment capital as well as overseeing safety standards.

Britain's decision to leave Euratom when it exits the EU puts the UK at risk of losing access to the markets and skills it needs to construct new nuclear power plants and maintain existing ones.

The UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) warned leaving Eruatom without alternative arrangements in place will have a "dramatic" impact on the nuclear industry, including the UK's new build plans, existing operations and the waste decommissioning sector, "which all depend, to some extent, on cooperation with nuclear states".

The government will have to agree to an alternative safeguards regime with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or risk disrupting normal business "right across the nuclear industry", the NIA said.

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It also must replace nuclear cooperation agreements with key markets like the US, Japan and South Korea so trade is not disrupted for the vital industry. The UK's nuclear sector generates a fifth of all electricity used in the country, and new builds, which rely on trade deals with those key countries, are an essential part of the energy mix needed to maintain security over the years to come.

"This new report demonstrates that without new arrangements in place by the time the UK leaves the Euratom community, there is scope for real and considerable disruption," said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the NIA

"The government now need to get down to the work of putting such arrangements in place, including a prudent approach to ensuring there are transitional arrangements in place, to avoid a gap in regulation. That would not be in the interests of the EU, the UK or the industry globally," Greatrex said.

To avoid such a gap, the government should begin negotiations by seeking an agreement with the EU to continue existing arrangements until the new plan is developed, the NIA said.

Yesterday, MPs warned the government must act "urgently" to clarify future ties between the UK and European energy markets - in particular, Euratom.

"The clock is ticking, and this is a priority of increasing urgency," Greatrex said.

Read more: Is Brexit uncertainty leaving the UK nuclear sector facing meltdown?

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