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Costly consequences for UK nuclear industry, following Brexit

UK nuclear industry faces Brexit fall-out, Climate News Network, May 17, 2017, by Paul Brown,  Leaving the EU treaty that prevents radioactive materials falling into the wrong hands could prove costly for the UK nuclear industry.

LONDON,  – The UK’s vote to leave the European Union has put the country’s nuclear industry at risk because its trade in radioactive materials will be forbidden under international law.

In the worst case scenario, legal experts say, the lights could go out in the UK, but they think the more probable outcome is simply that the government will find itself with an expensive industrial problem and an embarrassing diplomatic mess.

The unintended consequence for the British nuclear industry of last year’s referendum vote to leave the EU is that the decision will also take the UK out of the Euratom treaty that protects the EU’s nuclear industry against radioactive material falling into the hands of rogue states or terrorist groups.

Nuclear power stations already provide about one-fifth of the UK’s electricity, and the government has ambitious plans to build at least 10 more reactors as part of its strategy to cut carbon emissions.

It has withdrawn subsidies from onshore wind and solar power, and underwritten new nuclear stations instead.

However, the industry relies on foreign companies − based both in the EU and outside − that provide parts, fuel and raw materials. When the UK leaves Euratom, this trade will be contrary to international law.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industries Association, which represents 260 companies, says: “There is scope for real and considerable disruption.”

Nuclear materials

The Euratom safeguards are applied by the European Commission to provide confidence that nuclear materials in the EU are not diverted from their declared end use, which is producing electricity from uranium and plutonium, and dealing with the waste that results.

This enables countries inside the EU to trade with other member states in construction and providing parts and staff for nuclear power stations. It also allows trade in such dangerous materials as plutonium, uranium and spent fuel, provided it is both safe and for peaceful purposes.

There is no precedent for a member state leaving the EU. But, in theory, when the UK does so − and therefore leaves Euratom − possibly as soon as two years from now, this trade must cease, otherwise member states will be breaking the terms of the treaty.

This would effectively paralyse not only the UK industry, which relies on international trade to survive, but also many of its trading partners in the EU, and also Japan, China and the US, all of which the UK has nuclear deals with that would need a new safeguard regime in place in order to continue…….

Dame Sue Ion, chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which was established by the UK government in 2013, said a whole lot of new international agreements would have to be in place before anything in the nuclear sector could be transferred between countries.

“We would be crippled without other agreements in place,” she said. – Climate News Network http://climatenewsnetwork.net/uk-nuclear-industry-fall-brexit/

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May 22, 2017 - Posted by | Legal, UK

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