UK Nuclear Industry Wigged Out Over BREXIT

wigged outThere’s not enough time to get all the pieces of a new relationship with Euratom in place to meet the needs of the UK nuclear industry.

Parliament agrees with the industry that the government needs to have a strategic plan to assure reliable fuel deliveries to current and future nuclear power stations.

Nobody in the British nuclear industry is happy right now with the state of affairs regarding the UK exit from the European Union. The industry is unhappy with Prime Minister Teresa May’s lack of attention to its issues especially the relationship with Euratom.

The UK Parliament is similarly unhappy over the lack of strategic planning for the exit and the possible consequences of failing to plan for an orderly change in bilateral and multi-lateral relationships.

Both sets of stakeholders, who’s members undoubtedly voted to “stay,” are gearing up to influence the election called by PM May to buttress her standing with voters. While it is probably too late to put the Brexit horse back in the barn, the nuclear industry is telling the public that it still needs to be corralled if they want the lights to stay on.

UK Nuclear Industry ‘Blighted’ By Government Indecision

(NucNet): The UK’s civil nuclear sector has been blighted by the indecision of successive governments and with an election in June 2017 it is critical for the new government to set out a decisive future for this industry, a House of Lords report says.

The science and technology select committee report, published on May 2, 2017, also sets out the risks to the UK nuclear sector if membership to Euratom expires at the end of the two-year Brexit negotiating period without a replacement. The UK risks losing access to the markets and skills it needs to construct new nuclear power plants and existing power plants could be unable to acquire nuclear fuel.

The report notes that despite the additional £250m (€295m, $322m) over five years promised by the government in 2015, the amount of UK funding for nuclear research, development and innovation is much lower than public funding levels in other leading nuclear nations, including the US, France and Japan.

The report concludes: “The government has highlighted the importance of the nuclear sector . . . and must develop a clear, long-term vision and set of goals for civil nuclear strategy.” The report,’ Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision’, is online:

UK Should Consider Delaying Euratom Exit, Says Parliamentary Committee

(NucNet): Members of a British parliamentary committee share the nuclear industry’s concern that new arrangements for regulating nuclear trade, including reliable fuel deliveries for current and future reactors, will take longer than two years to set up and the government should consider delaying the country’s exit from the Euratom Treaty to be certain that new arrangements can be in place in time for Brexit.

Committee chairman Iain Wright said the impact of Brexit on Euratom has not been thought through.

“The government has failed to consider the potentially disastrous ramifications of its Brexit objectives for the nuclear industry. Ministers must act as urgently as possible. The repercussions of failing to do so are huge. The continued operations of the UK nuclear industry are at risk.”

In a position paper published on May 3, 2017, the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, which represents more than 260 member companies, said the government needs to work closely with industry to bring about replacement arrangements for Euratom to avoid “a cliff edge” for the nuclear industry.

The paper sets out priority areas for negotiations with the European Commission. The paper also sets out steps the UK government needs to take to avoid “serious disruption” to normal nuclear business in the UK and across the EU. The 1957 Euratom Treaty governs the peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU. The NIA paper is online:

WNN notes that the government announced the UK intends to leave Euratom in explanatory notes to a bill it published in January authorizing Brexit. The bill empowers the prime minister to leave both the EU and Euratom. On March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, marking the start of two years of negotiations to thrash out a deal for Brexit.

Earlier this month, May called a snap general election for 8 June, stating that divisions in Parliament risked hampering the talks. If she wins a clear majority of seats, she will have a stronger hand in negotiations with the European Union and less back biting at home.

NIA sets out six priorities for Euratom exit

(WNN) The UK government needs to work closely with industry to bring about replacement arrangements for the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in a timely manner for the country’s nuclear industry, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) says in a position paper.

The NIA said its paper sets out the priority areas for negotiations with the European Commission as the UK ceases to be a full member of the Euratom community alongside the process to leave the European Union. It also sets out the steps the government needs to take “to avoid serious disruption to normal nuclear business” in the UK and across the EU.

The NIA has listed six key steps it wants the government to take:

  • agreeing a replacement Voluntary Offer Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency for a new UK safeguards regime;
  • replacing the Nuclear Co-operation Agreements (NCA) with key nuclear markets – Australia, Canada, the Euratom Community, Kazakhstan, South Korea and the USA;
  • clarifying the validation of the UK’s current bilateral NCAs with Japan and other nuclear states; 
  • setting out the process for the movement of nuclear material, goods, people and services, and crucially, nuclear fuel and reactor components; 
  • agreeing a new funding arrangement for the UK’s involvement in wider EU nuclear R&D programs;  and,
  • maintaining confidence in the industry and securing crucial investment money for new reactors from European sources.

The London-based nuclear trade association said addressing these priority areas will enable the nuclear sector to continue its work with other countries, both within and outside the continuing EU, as the UK ceases to be a member of the EU. Given the amount of work to be concluded within the next 22 months, however, there is a risk that new arrangements will not be in place, the NIA said. It just isn’t enough time to get it all done.

Tom Greatrex, NIA chief executive, said: “The clock is ticking, and this is a priority of increasing urgency. 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. 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.”

“The government now needs 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.”

The 1957 Euratom Treaty governs the peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU. The Euratom Community is a separate legal entity from the EU, but it is governed by the bloc’s institutions. The Euratom framework also includes nuclear cooperation 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 including access to uranium for nuclear fuel used by commercial nuclear reactors.

Nuclear Industry ‘Frustrated’ By Lack Of Progress On UK’s SMR Policy

(NucNet): The UK nuclear energy industry shares the frustration of a House of Lords committee that the first stage of the government’s small modular reactor (SMR) competition has been left hanging in the air, and that the roadmap industry was promised last autumn “seems to have got lost somewhere in Whitehall.”

Commenting on the House of Lords science and technology committee report, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), said with a potential global market for SMRs valued at £250bn-£400bn, the government must provide clarity as soon as possible after the general election in June 2017 if the energy, industrial and export opportunities of a UK SMR are to be realized.

“Otherwise, that promising opportunity of recent years (SMRs) will be lost to others, including the US, Canada and China, who are progressing with SMR development programs,” he said.

The committee said it is disappointed that the government launched a competition for SMRs and has not kept to its timetable. This has had a negative effect on the nuclear sector in the UK and if the government does not act soon the necessary high level of industrial interest will not be maintained.

“It is particularly alarming that the results of phase one of the competition, which does not involve the selection of an SMR design, have yet to be announced by the government,” the committee said. The report,’ Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision’, is online:

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