Possible implications of Brexit for nuclear industry
Two UK parliamentary committees and the UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) have recently published reports emphasising the importance of the UK government taking action in order to ensure that the nuclear sector (including new build, decommissioning, R&D and other programmes) will continue without any disruption.
On 2 May, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee published a report entitled “Leaving the EU: negotiation priorities for energy and climate change policy”. In its report, the Committee warns that “the Government has left the UK nuclear industry at risk and must act urgently in order to ensure its continued operation post-Brexit”.
According to the Committee, “any interval between the UK leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and entering into secure alternative arrangements would severely inhibit nuclear trade and research and threaten power supplies”.
The Committee notes “strong concerns in the sector that new arrangements will take longer than two years to set up and recommends delaying departure from Euratom to give the industry more time to establish alternative arrangements. If this is not possible, the Government should seek transitional arrangements, which may need to be longer than the three years proposed by the European parliament”.
On the same day, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published its report entitled “Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision”. The report warns the UK Government that “the UK has reached a critical moment for the future of the United Kingdom as a serious nuclear nation”.
According to the authors of the report, “the undoubted potential of the civil nuclear sector has been blighted by the indecision of successive Governments and within the context of the industrial strategy and amid the challenges of Brexit, it is critical for the incoming Government to set out a decisive future for this industry”.
The report sets out the risks to the UK nuclear sector if membership of Euratom expires at the end of the two-year negotiating period without a replacement. The report says that “the UK risks losing its lead in fusion research as well as losing access to the markets and skills it needs to construct new nuclear power plants and existing power plants could be unable to acquire fuel”.
The report also calls on the Government to “decide as a matter of urgency whether it wishes the UK to be a serious player in developing nuclear generation technology whether as a designer, manufacturer and operator, or to restrict its interest to being an operator of equipment supplied by others from overseas”.
Following the committee reports, the UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) published on 3 May its report “Exiting Euratom” analysing the possible implications of Brexit for the nuclear industry. According to the NIA, “the UK Government needs to work closely with industry in order to bring about replacement arrangements for Euratom in a timely manner to avoid a cliff edge for the nuclear industry”.
According to Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the NIA, “the 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. The industry has not only set out the priority areas to be addressed, but also the steps we think the Government needs to take to address those issues”.
For further information, please read FORATOM’s press release on Brexit.