UK Brexit Plan Stirs Up a Bitter Brew Over Euratom Status

The decision to leave Euratom, the body that oversees European nuclear safety, will have profound impacts – and may not have been necessary.

bitter brew(NucNet) Leaving the Euratom agency that oversees nuclear safety in Europe will cause widespread confusion and have a potentially devastating impact on the nuclear energy industry in the UK, experts have warned.

According to Buzzfeed News, five “senior nuclear scientists” said there are three main areas that could be affected by Brexit. The areas are transportation of nuclear materials, including nuclear fuel; research, especially fusion research; and overseas investment in development of British nuclear power stations.

All of these could have further impacts on British high-tech industries. Possible consequences include a reduction in foreign investment in UK nuclear power facilities, the loss of thousands of jobs and the UK losing its place as a world leader in new nuclear technologies.

Professor Roger Cashmore, chair of the UK Atomic Energy Agency, told Buzzfeed News the current situation was “alarming.”

Although the treaties relating to Euratom are separate to those keeping the UK in the EU, the agency requires members to be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However, UK prime minister Theresa May has insisted the UK must withdraw from it as part of Brexit.

According to the Buzzfeed report, Juan Matthews, a visiting professor at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester, said,

“In order to continue our business with fuel manufacture and enrichment, we need to have the legislation in place to allow the movement and transport of materials.” But that cross-border legislation is put in place by Euratom and would need to be replaced if we leave.”

“If there’s a hiatus,” he said. “There are thousands of jobs at stake. It’s a billion-pound industry which could be held up.”

The UK is a major producer of enriched uranium, which is used in nuclear fuel, and exports much of the material to other EU countries. The UK government also owns a third of Urenco, the European uranium-enrichment company.

Prof. Cashmore told Buzzfeed News that unless new treaties relating to the transportation of nuclear materials between Britain and the EU are agreed quickly, the UK could run out of nuclear fuel within two years, meaning nuclear power stations would be unable to produce energy.

UK Reports On Euratom ‘Very Concerning’, Says Nuclear Industry Body

(NucNet): Reports in the UK media that there was no impact assessment undertaken by the government before deciding to trigger leaving Euratom are “very concerning”, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, said.

Mr Greatrex said that while the industry has provided the government with detailed information to help it understand the role of Euratom, it has also repeatedly been made clear to the government that the industry’s preferred position is to retain membership of Euratom.

“It is important now that the government ensures there is regular and constant dialogue with the industry, so they can understand the full consequences of decisions they will take over the period ahead,” he said.

The Guardian newspaper reported on July 12, 2017, that a ruling Conservative Party revolt has grown stronger over prime minster Theresa May’s plan to withdraw from the Euratom nuclear treaty with the possibility that  the PM will have no majority for the move.

The government insists that leaving Euratom is an inevitable consequence of triggering article 50 and proceeding to Brexit – a position shared by the European negotiators.

However, around a dozen Conservative MPs are pushing for the government to fight harder for the UK to stay in Euratom, which oversees the movement of nuclear materials across Europe.

Trudy Harrison, a Conservative MP representing Copeland, the constituency of the Sellafield nuclear site, said leaving the Euratom treaty without quickly replicating its benefits could risk jobs and safety.

The opposition Labour Party said Britain should remain in Euratom, adding it is increasingly clear that the government acted “recklessly” by giving up on membership of Euratom.

Position Paper Confirms UK Will Quit Euratom Nuclear Treaty

(NucNet): The UK’s Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) has published a position paper on the UK’s stance on the European atomic energy community (Euratom), saying the UK would quit the treaty but seek to work with Euratom’s member countries to ensure a “smooth transition” to a new regime of nuclear cooperation and safeguards.

The position paper resists calls for rethinking the withdrawal and says leaving Euratom is an inevitable consequence of triggering article 50 and proceeding to Brexit. Critics have said this is exactly the wrong position for the government to be taking.

The position paper, published on July 13, 2017, shows the government is not changing course from its decision in January to leave the Euratom treaty, despite strong warnings this week that doing so could undermine safety, affect investment in new nuclear and research, and threaten the supply of radioactive isotopes.

Politicians and the nuclear industry have urged ministers to consider an associate membership, an option that does not appear in the paper.

The nuclear industry said ministers had failed to give the sector enough clarity to date on the government’s plans regarding Euratom.

“While containing very little detail, the UK government’s position paper demonstrates the complexity of replicating Euratom arrangements in UK regulation and cooperation agreements with third countries which the industry has warned of,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association. The position paper is online:

U.K. May Seek Associate Membership of Euratom

(Bloomberg) The U.K. may seek associate membership of the nuclear oversight treaty that it’s pulling out of as part of its withdrawal from the European Union, Brexit Secretary David Davis said as he sought to quell a growing rebellion among lawmakers from his own Conservative Party.

“What we want is something quite close to what we currently have in terms of safeguards, in terms of agreements, in terms of oversight, in terms of the ability to transfer fissile materials, all these sorts of things,” Davis said in a BBC television interview.

“Whether we have an association agreement with the European Union or we have something independent under the International Atomic Energy Authority, we’ll provide the sorts of safeguards that we have today at least.”

By holding out the carrot of an association agreement, Davis may be able pacify opponents to the Euratom pullout within his own party. For its part the European Union had not responded to the idea of an “associate membership” at press time.

India Confirms Sites For 10 Indigenous PHWRs

(NucNet): India’s atomic energy minister Jitendra Singh has told parliament that the government has approved and financially sanctioned the construction of the 10 indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) totaling around 7,000 MW. They are scheduled to be progressively completed by 2031.

Mr Singh told parliament that the planned reactors are;

  • Kaiga-5 and -6 in Karnataka state
  • Chutka-1 and -2 in Madhya Pradesh
  • Mahi Banswara-1,-2,-3 and -4 in Rajasthan, and
  • Gorakhpur-3 and -4 in Haryana state

The total cost of constructing the reactors is estimated at $16.3bn (€13.9bn) at a constant price level, which excludes inflation and interest during construction, Mr Singh said. All materials and components for the units would be sourced in India, he said.

South Korea ‘In Talks’ Over Stake In Horizon’s Wylfa Newydd

(NucNet): South Korea’s state-owned Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) is said to be in early talks to buy a stake in Horizon’s Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station project in Wales. According to media reports on July 23, 2017, KHNP, a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), could invest in Horizon as a minority shareholder along with the governments of Japan and the UK. The company is understood to be hiring advisers in the UK, the Sunday Times reported.

A spokesman for Horizon said: “We have always been clear that we are looking to bring other investors into Horizon. Based on the strengths of our project, we are in positive discussions with a number of parties but we will not be commenting on the process whilst it is ongoing.”

Horizon is planning to build and operate two UK Advanced-Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) units at Wylfa Newydd on the island of Anglesey in north Wales. The company submitted its site application in April 2017.

If KEPCO enters the picture, it may propose to build its own 1400 MW units similar to those it is completing in the UAE. However, the reactor has not yet been submitted for the UK nuclear safety review needed to license the construction and operation of this design.  That process could take three years or longer depending on how well the review process goes.

China Holds Talks With Poland Over Plans For First Nuclear Plants

(NucNet) Nuclear operator China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has held discussions with the Polish government about potentially becoming a partner and building Poland’s first commercial nuclear power plant.

CGN said talks took place with a Polish delegation headed by deputy minister of energy Andrzej Piotrowski in Shenzhen during a visit to China. Mr Piotrowski also met his Chinese counterpart Li Fanrong in Beijing.

CGN senior vice-president Shu Guogang said the company attached great importance to the Polish market and is “willing and confident of becoming a long-term strategic partner of Poland and helping with the localisation of nuclear technology.”

The Polish delegation visited the Daya Bay nuclear station in southern China and the first indigenous Hualong One units under construction at the Fangchenggang nuclear station, also in southern China. Poland has not finalized its nuclear plans, but CGN said in its statement that Poland is planning two units.

Poland in 2014 announced plans to build two nuclear power stations with total capacity of 6MW. The first unit is expected to be completed by the end of 2030.

Poland has repeatedly made such announcements and then postponed the start and finish dates due to issues with financing. The country gets the majority of its electrical power from coal and gas plants. It is not clear whether China offered to provide any of the funding needed to build the Polish plants.

France Could Shut Up To 17 Reactors In Bid To Meet 50% Nuclear Share

(NucNet):France may permanently shut up to 17 nuclear reactor units by 2025 to achieve its target of reducing the share of nuclear power in the generation mix from around 75% to 50%, environment minister Nicolas Hulot said in an interview with radio network RTL on July 10, 2017.

“When it was confirmed that the share of nuclear would be 50%, everyone understood that to achieve this objective we would need to close a number of reactors,” Mr Hulot said.

“It may be up to 17 reactors we have to look at.”

Mr Hulot said on July 6, 2017, that the new administration of president Emmanuel Macron wants to meet the country’s commitment to reduce the share of nuclear energy in electricity output to 50% by 2025. Unveiling proposals for the country’s energy transition, Mr Hulot said cutting electricity generated by nuclear power remained France’s objective.

The 50% target was set by the August 2015 energy transition law. According to International Atomic Energy Agency statistics, France’s 58 commercial nuclear units accounted for 72.28% of the country’s electricity mix in 2016, down from 77.5% in 2014. In his interview with RTL Mr Hulot did not name the units that would shut down.

If the plant is executed as planned it is likely that France will suffer an economic setback of significant proportions since it has no replacement power plan in place.

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