Nuclear Safeguards Bill published as UK prepares to leave Euratom

Courtney Goldsmith
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British Government Signs A Deal For New Nuclear Power Plant
The nuclear industry trade body said the government should push for a transitional agreement (Source: Getty)

As the UK prepares to withdraw from a decades-old nuclear treaty, plans to safeguard the industry through the transition were published in parliament today.

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill aims to secure the future of the UK's nuclear industry by establishing a domestic nuclear safeguards regime to deliver existing Euratom standards.

Euratom, or the European Atomic Energy Community, was established in 1957 to enable a single market of goods and services for nuclear projects as well as to create trade deals. The UK will withdraw from Euratom in 2019 as a result of Brexit.

The bill was first announced in the Queen's Speech earlier this year and will bolster the roles and responsibilities of the UK's existing nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, once the UK leaves Euratom.

Read more: The UK's nuclear sector faces a "cliff edge" over Brexit

Energy minister Richard Harrington said:

We are bringing forward the UK’s first new nuclear power plants in a generation and it is in our mutual benefit to maintain the successful working relationship we have now with Europe, and the rest of the world, on nuclear matters. This is what we will be looking to secure in negotiations with our partners.

However, the UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said the bill does not provide enough certainty for the industry and the government should be pushing for a transitional agreement.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the NIA, said publishing the bill was a necessary step, but it is just one small part of the "incredibly complex and time-consuming process to replicate existing regulation" if the UK leaves Euratom at the same time as it leaves the EU.

“The UK industry’s primary concern remains the risk of significant disruption if we cease to be members of Euratom without new arrangements being in place.

“This bill does not provide reassurance on that, and is why the government’s priority should be seeking agreement with the European Commission to ensure there are transitional agreements in place, including continuing association to Euratom programmes.”

Read more: Vote Leave chief goes nuclear over govt plans to leave Euratom

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