Decision to leave Euratom ‘bonkers’, say experts Future of UK nuclear research ‘uncertain’ after Brexit bill revelation https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/decision-leave-euratom-bonkers-say-experts January 27, 2017 By Holly Else The UK is to leave the European Atomic Energy Community as part of Brexit in a move that has been condemned by energy researchers.
The decision to leave the organisation, which funds and coordinates nuclear research, was outlined as part of the government’s Brexit bill published on 26 January.
One nuclear energy researcher called the decision “bonkers”, while another added that it had created a huge amount of “uncertainty” for the field.
The decision has also raised questions about whether the country’s memberships of other European research organisations are at risk.
The community, known as Euratom, is an organisation that provides the basis for research and trade in nuclear power. The government’s desire to leave the organisation is outlined in the explanatory notes published alongside the bill giving it the authority to trigger Article 50 and leave the European Union.
It is not yet clear whether it would seek to rejoin the organisation after Brexit.
Euratom, in conjunction with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, funds the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, which is the UK’s national laboratory for fusion research. Culham also hosts JET, Europe’s largest nuclear fusion device.
According to its website, the centre collaborates with more than 20 UK universities, and it specifically mentions links with groups at the universities of Warwick and Oxford as well as the Doctoral Training Network in fusion.
Steven Cowley, previously director of the Culham centre and now president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, said: “It would be bonkers to leave Euratom both for research and for nuclear safeguards.”
James Marrow, professor of energy materials at the University of Oxford, said that the funding available from Euratom was the “glue” that holds together the UK’s national nuclear research.
Euratom is the way that we interacted with the European [nuclear research] programmes. [This move] creates huge uncertainty,” he said.
“Nuclear [research] is a bit different from many other areas in that it only makes progress through big projects, so for a single nation it is extremely difficult for them to develop anything new…[Projects] are very much collaborative, so we would be left out,” he added.
Meanwhile Juan Matthews, visiting professor at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester, said that he hoped that the inclusion of Euratom in the Brexit bill was a mistake as it “just didn’t make sense”.
“Euratom also controls the nuclear research and development aspects of the [EU’s] Horizon 2020 programme…UK research benefits more than our national contributions to Horizon 2020. A significant part of this is the work at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy on JET and our contribution to the ITER project,” he said.
ITER is another experimental nuclear fusion project in France. Professor Matthews added that “sorting all this out will produce delays and will hit hard both our economy and our science”.
Reacting to the news, Mark McCaughrean, a senior adviser at the European Space Agency, tweeted: “While #Euratom is specifically linked to EU, how long before the ‘principle’ is extended to other European research organisations?”
A spokeswoman for the UK government said: “Leaving Euratom is a result of the decision to leave the EU as they are uniquely legally joined. The UK supports Euratom and will want to see continuity of cooperation and standards.” email@example.com
Brexit Could Also Hurt Britain’s Nuclear Research and Safety Inspections http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2017/01/brexit-could-also-hurt-britains-nuclear-research-and-safety-inspections/
Another wrinkle has been added to an already complex Brexit process. Just a small one… Umm.. Nuclear safety.
Politico reports that when we trigger Article 50, not only will we be withdrawing from the European Union, but we’ll also be pulling out of Euratom, the EU agency which oversees nuclear safety and security across the continent.
That’s right. Somehow Europe has configured itself so that Brexit won’t affect our Eurovision membership, but will affect nuclear safety.
The inclusion of Euratom in our middle finger to our continental colleagues was revealed
in a note on the Article 50 bill that has just been put before Parliament.
The upshot of this is that it means Britain will have to hire tonnes of new people itself to help do stuff like carry out nuclear non-proliferation inspections in countries like Iran, authorise the sale of nuclear material, and inspect our own nuclear power plants to make sure that everything is fine. As Politico notes, what makes this particularly complicated is that at the moment Euroatom is the legal owner of all of the actual nuclear materials – and this will have to be transferred to Britain… but then Britain also does a lot of the work reprocessing materials on behalf other members. Basically, it’ll be a bit of a nightmare.
The other really disappointing outcome from Brexit could also be Britain pulling out of Euratom’s Research & Development wing, which is currently working on making fusion power a reality. At the moment, we’re helping construct a brand new massive fusion reactor in France, but Brexit could put that in jeopardy. [Politico]
Five anti-Trident protesters found guilty after blockading nuclear bomb factory The group argued they were putting their religious beliefs into action BY blockading the AWE Burghfield The Independent Jon Stone Political Correspondent @joncstone 27 Jan 17, Five anti-Trident protesters have been found guilty of blockading a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility – days after new concerns were raised about the safety of Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles.
The protesters, who barred the entrance to Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire in June of last year, were from the Christian group Put Down the Sword / Trident Ploughshares.
Trident mounted nuclear warheads are assembled at Burghfield, which has been the site of repeated demonstrations for a number of years. The MoD said work on the missile system was disrupted by the protests……
The activists’ defence team argued that they were acting in accordance with their religious beliefs, which they said were protected by the Human Rights Act.However district judge Khan said that he did not agree that “that the actions of the defendants were a manifestation of a religious belief” and in any case that “these rights have to yield to the primary right of passing and re-passing the highway” outside the base…….
A joint statement from the defendants said: “We stand by what we said in court: Trident is an illegal and immoral waste of money, a crime against humanity and God.
“The prosecution said we could just have joined in a prayer vigil to the side of the road, instead of lying in it; we said our consciences wouldn’t allow that. We believe prayer is important but sometimes our faith compels us to put our whole bodies in the way of injustice and violence.“The Bible says religious acts are meaningless unless we also stand up for the poor and needy; we are called to bring a just peace with hope for all. We will continue to seek peace, and to take the consequences of doing so. It’s a small price to pay for the chance to challenge an evil like nuclear weapons.”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trident-burghfield-reading-nuclear-missiles-bomb-factory-base-protests-guilty-a7549261.html
Brexit will delay new British nuclear power stations, warn experts
Analysts say exit from EU atomic treaty is ‘lose-lose’ that will raise costs and safety questions at plants such as Hinkley Point C, Guardian, Adam Vaughan, 27 Jan 17, Britain’s first nuclear power station in two decades will be delayed by a government decision to quit Europe’s atomic power treaty, experts have warned.
Ministers revealed on Thursday that Brexit would involve the UK leaving Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards.
The news poses problems for the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, while raising questions over safety inspection regimes and the UK’s future participation in nuclear fusion research.
Referring to Hinkley and other nuclear projects in the pipeline, he said: “The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increase nuclear costs and will mean further delays.”
EDF, which is building the Hinkley project and hopes to construct other plants, has told MPs that “ideally” the UK would stay in the treaty, as it provided a framework for complying with international standards for handling nuclear material.
Without mentioning Hinkley, the French state-owned company also warned that restrictions on the movement of people because of Brexit could delay delivery of new energy infrastructure.
Antony Froggatt, a research fellow at the Chatham House thinktank, said: “Outside of Euratom and the single market, the movement of nuclear fuel, equipment and trained staff will be more complicated.”
He noted that because the UK was a supporter of nuclear power, Brexit would affect the balance of nuclear policies in the EU, where Germany, Italy and even strongly pro-nuclear France had taken steps in recent years to reduce their reliance on atomic power.
Vince Zabielski, a nuclear energy specialist at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said: “If the UK leaves Euratom before new standalone nuclear cooperation treaties are negotiated with France and the US, current new build projects will be placed on hold while those standalone treaties are negotiated.”
Other lawyers questioned why the government had decided to quit Euratom and in the manner it had done so, in the explanatory notes accompany the article 50 bill.
“There doesn’t seem to have been any real explanation as to why, because we are going towards the unknown at great speed. Legally we don’t have to [leave Euratom because the UK is leaving the EU],” said Jonathan Leech, a senior lawyer and nuclear expert at Prospect Law.
“At the moment, the UK standing on the world nuclear stage is predicated on a series of cooperation agreements, and those we have the benefit of from being a member of Euratom, and the few bilateral agreements are based on Euratom, too. Take that away and you have no basis for international nuclear cooperation.”
He said quitting Euratom would create unnecessary uncertainty for new nuclear power and research into fusion power, a cleaner alternative to nuclear fission in which the UK has been a world leader for decades……. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/27/uk-exit-eu-atomic-treaty-brexit-euratom-hinkley-point-c
New power stations in doubt after Brexit change, THE TIMES, The new wave of British nuclear power stations was in jeopardy after the government announced it would pull out of a Europe-wide nuclear co-operation organisation.
Ministers sneaked out the news that the UK would leave the European Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom, within the notes accompanying the bill published yesterday to trigger Article 50, the process for leaving the European Union.
Euratom was established through a 1957 treaty and plays a crucial role in ensuring compliance with international nuclear safeguards as well as establishing a European market for nuclear goods and services.
The decision to announce Britain’s planned exit from Euratom yesterday caught the nuclear industry by surprise and caused concern in parts of government. Some ministers wanted to delay the announcement because of…http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/britain-quits-european-nuclear-body-pgmq9m9fc
Anglesey nuclear reactor consultation attacked BBC News, 27 Jan 17 Anti-nuclear campaigners have accused Natural Resources Wales of carrying out an “insulting” consultation over designs for a new reactor on Anglesey.
Hitachi-GE wants to build a new type of reactor at Wylfa, with a UK stakeholder meeting over the design held in Birmingham last month.
Wylfa opponents say a similar meeting run by NRW is not public – and only open to invited guests.
But NRW said it is holding a series of public drop-in sessions on the island.
However, the campaign group People Against Wylfa B (Pawb) described the individual meeting “for a small number of invitees” being held at the old Wylfa power plant site next Monday as “an affront to democracy”.
“This is totally unacceptable. On a matter as important as this, it is an insult to the people of Ynys Môn (Anglesey) and north Wales,” said Dylan Morgan, from Pawb.
“To add insult to injury, it is intended to hold the meeting in a room on the Wylfa Magnox site which is far from being a neutral venue and reinforces the perception that Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government are dancing to the nuclear industry’s tune.”
The environmental agency described the meeting in question as a “technical” briefing for those unable to attend the Birmingham event, with about 100 invited to attend.
The UK Government is currently carrying out consultations on what is known as the generic design assessment for the type of nuclear reactor that could be built at a new Wylfa power plant.
A UK first
The Japanese-American nuclear partners want to bring a new advanced boiling water reactor to the site and to the site at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
It would be the first of its kind in the UK. A decision on the design is expected to be taken by UK ministers in December this year.
Pawb has now written to the Welsh Government’s Environment Secretary Leslie Griffiths, asking her to intervene as the minister responsible for overseeing the work of NRW.
“We call on you to instruct Natural Resources Wales to rearrange a public meeting in a neutral, convenient and central location in Ynys Môn,” stated Pawb.
“A meeting held to discuss the generic design assessment of the Hitachi ABWR has to be advertised openly and widely and not ‘to a small number of invitees’.”…….. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-38760203
Scottish cold war nuclear submarine collision kept secret for 43 years
Documents published by CIA reveal crash between US and Soviet subs a few miles off coast of Scotland in 1974, Guardian, Matthew Weaver, 26 Jan 17, Two nuclear submarines from rival sides in the cold war collided a few miles off the coast of Scotland in an incident that was covered up for 43 years.
The potentially catastrophic crash occurred in November 1974 when the SSBN James Madison, armed with 16 Poseidon nuclear missiles, was heading out of the US naval base at Holy Loch, 30 miles north-west of Glasgow.
Soon after leaving the port it hit an unidentified Soviet submarine that had been sent to tail it, according to a cable to then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, marked “secret eyes only” [pdf].
The cable, sent by national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, said: “Have just received word from the Pentagon that one of our Poseidon submarines has just collided with a Soviet submarine.
“The SSBN James Madison was departing Holy Loch to take up station when it collided with a Soviet submarine waiting outside the port to take up trail.
“Both submarines surfaced and the Soviet boat subsequently submerged again. There is no report yet of the extent of damage. Will keep you posted.”
The cable was published by the CIA on 17 January as part of a mass release of more than 12m pages of previously classified reports in 930,000 documents.
The cable corroborates an until-now unconfirmed report on the incident in the Washington Post on 1 January 1975 by the investigative journalist Jack Anderson. He reported that the collision left a 9ft scratch on the side of the James Madison and that the two submarines came within inches of sinking one another.
Another document marked “top secret” [pdf]released in the same batch expressed alarm that the news of the collision had leaked.
It said: “On 3 January, the NID [National Intelligence Daily] ran an item on the collision just off Holy Loch of US Polaris submarine and a Soviet attack submarine. Unfortunately, Jack Anderson had run the same news in the Washington Post a day or two earlier.
“This pre-emption on Anderson’s part forced the surfacing (no pun intended) of a piece of information in a current intelligence 2 months after the event occurred. …..
Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said the secret cable exposed the “enormous risks” of nuclear weapons.
“The history of nuclear weapons is a history of near misses, accidents, potential catastrophes and cover-ups. This latest example joins 25 other near misses that could have led to nuclear war.”
CND is calling for an inquiry into Trident, the successor to the Poseidon programme, after it emerged that a malfunctioning missile with the potential to carry a nuclear warhead was forced to self-destruct in mid-air off the US coast last June.
Hudson added: “These enormous risks have to be acknowledged particularly when we also now face the increasing likelihood of cyber-attack on nuclear weapons systems. With advancing technological developments added to the already dangerous mix there can be no confidence that nuclear weapons are a credible part of British security in the 21st century……… https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/nuclear-submarine-collision-cold-war-cia-scotland
Tories threatened by their own nuclear meltdown in Copeland By Natalie Bloomer Politics.co.uk, 26 January 2017 Since the Copeland byelection was called, speculation has been rife about the damage Jeremy Corbyn’s nuclear stance could do to Labour’s chances. But while the Tories have been quick to exploit this, they have been much slower to wake up to their own nuclear problem. And it’s one which has the potential to swing the outcome of next month’s vote……..
Throughout the campaign there have been concerns within the local Labour party and among some union members that Corbyn’s views on nuclear could have an impact. But a far more pressing concern for many of the workers on site is the ongoing dispute with the government over their pensions.
Unions say that changes to the workers’ final salary pension scheme, which have been proposed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), could see pensions slashed by thousands of pounds. After a meeting with government ministers yesterday, unions announced that a planned strike ballot would be put on hold while talks continue. But the issue has by no means gone away. http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2017/01/26/tories-threatened-by-their-own-nuclear-meltdown-in-copeland
What could go wrong? Nuclear energy giant wants safety rules relaxed https://www.rt.com/uk/374788-nuclear-plant-edf-safety/ 24 Jan, 2017 A nuclear energy company is trying to keep Scotland’s aging power stations open years longer than is allowed under current government regulations.
EDF Energy is asking the UK government’s nuclear watchdog to allow its power station in Hunterston, North Ayrshire, to continue running until it is 47 years old, and its facility in Torness, East Lothian, to remain open until it is 42 years old.
The power plants were designed to last only 30 years, according to investigative news site the Ferret.
The revelation has caused concern among experts and politicians, who fear continued use of the nuclear reactors could put the public at risk.
EDF Energy, which is majority-owned by the French government, has requested the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to permit an increase in the proportion of cracked graphite bricks in the two power plants from 10 to 20 percent.
In order to generate nuclear energy, thousands of graphite bricks used to make up reactor cores are bombarded with radiation. When these bricks begin to crack, it threatens the plant’s ability to make a safe shutdown.
The Hunterston and Torness power plants have both already seen their lifespans extended by seven years, until 2023 and 2030 respectively.
A report for the Scottish Green Party by Pete Roche, of the Edinburgh Energy and Environment Consultancy, quotes a senior EDF figure as saying the lifespans of the plants could be extended even further.
EDF Scottish Business Director Paul Winkle told a fringe meeting at the Scottish National Party (SNP)’s 2016 conference this will depend on the company’s assessments, according to the report.
“The current life for Hunterston is 2023 and Torness is 2030, and that is based on our assessment of aging mechanisms in those plants and being absolutely sure that when they are shut down they are still safe to operate.
“But to go beyond that we will do assessments and it may be possible to make some small further extensions, but we will not operate them beyond when we are confident they are safe to operate.
“Our current estimate is, with Hunterston, we get to a point where, if we go beyond 2023 there will be uncertainty. We will do more analysis in due course. Those dates are based on our best judgement.”
Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer warned local communities would be concerned by the proposals.
“The lack of public consultation is just unacceptable,” he said.
“If we did this properly, the public would reject an aging, cracking, safety hazard. The Scottish government’s relaxed position on nuclear needs [to be] challenged. We simply don’t need to sweat these plants and add to our toxic legacy.”
Jeremy Corbyn urged to oppose nuclear power station planned for Moorside A campaign group is calling on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to publicly oppose nuclear new-build plans in west Cumbria. News and Star, 24 Jan 17
Radiation Free Lakeland (RFL) has written to Mr Corbyn to urge him to lodge his “firm and outspoken” opposition to plans for a three-reactor station at Moorside, on land next to Sellafield.
By doing so, adds RFL, Mr Corbyn would “galvanise and inspire nuclear opponents, and give them a compelling reason to vote Labour”.
RFL’s letter comes in the week that Mr Corbyn – who has been described as “anti-nuclear” by opponents – has twice visited Copeland ahead of a hotly-anticipated Parliamentary by-election to replace Jamie Reed. In her letter to Mr Corbyn, RFL’s Marianne Birkby points to safety concerns about the design of the AP1000 reactors proposed for Moorside, and the “intolerable nuclear burden” already faced locally…..
She also draws his attention to a petition – Stop Moorside: the biggest nuclear development in Europe – that has attracted over 11,000 signatures.
She said: “We oppose Moorside and feel that you may be underestimating the strength of feeling against the plans. “When you appeared on The Andrew Marr Show last weekend, you missed the chance to condemn the project.
“Please set aside the siren voices that are working hard to convince you that outright opposition to Moorside would be a vote-loser.
“Instead, listen to the voices of resistance, which include many Labour voters previously encouraged by your rational, well-informed spepticism of the nuclear industry and its taxpayer-funded spin doctors.”
NuGen, the firm behind plans for Moorside, is currently analysing feedback from last summer’s public consultation into the plant.
The firm hopes to get the final go ahead in 2018. http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/Jeremy-Corbyn-urged-to-oppose-nuclear-power-station-planned-for-Moorside-30bf74c4-e216-4b83-92d3-439aacffc817-ds
Closer nuclear ties with France have been blown by Brexit, Independent, Martin Deighton, 23 Jan 17 “…The UK is planning to pay £30bn to upgrade Trident. The UK will not own the missiles but will lease them under licence controls from the US. UK Submarines will have to report to King George Bay in the state of Georgia in order to be regularly inspected and serviced and armed with the leased missiles. In its latest test, the Trident missile misfired.
We now have Trump on one flank, a President who not only considers Nato to be obsolete but will also have total control of the nuclear armaments and facilities in the US; and we have Putin on the other flank, a President of Russia with apparent and activated plans to expand into Eastern Europe……
France has suggested that the UK and France should join forces in the funding, expansion and deployment of these armaments as a truly European nuclear deterrent………..But of course this cooperation is now unlikely as we have decided to walk away from the EU.
No.10 admits Theresa May did know about nuclear test where missile ‘veered towards America’ Downing Street describes the operation as ‘successful’ – because the submarine and crew returned to service – but refuses to say what happened to the missile, Independent, Rob Merrick @Rob_Merrick 24 January 2017
Theresa May did know about last year’s controversial test firing of a Trident missile, but No.10 is refusing to confirm that it veered off course.
Instead, the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman insisted the operation had been “successful” – because both the submarine and the crew were able to return to service.
Her spokeswoman described repeated questions about allegations that the unarmed missile went astray as “minutiae and specifics”.
The admission that Ms May was informed about the results of last June’s test comes 24 hours after she refused – four times – to say if she had been aware of it.
She has been accused of covering up the test, which came just weeks before MPs backed the £40bn renewal of Trident by 472 votes to 117…….http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-nuclear-test-error-trident-mps-vote-refuses-confirm-a7541481.html
The UK now relies on Trump for our nuclear weapons – we need to spend more than ever before to free ourselves Britain’s Trident missiles are in a common pool shared with the US and maintained at Kings Bay, Georgia. Without the cooperation of the Trump administration, Trident wouldn’t last longer than a couple of months, Independent Benedict Spence Tuesday 24 January 2017 The report that a Trident missile test went awry, veering not toward its intended target on the west coast of Africa, but toward Florida – just weeks before parliament voted for its renewal – has forced the question of Britain’s nuclear deterrent firmly back into the public agenda.
Number 10 has confirmed that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was aware of this malfunction before the vote, raising questions over whether she should have revealed information at the time. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, for one, believed there should have been “full disclosure”, whilst the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament suggested such information “would have impacted the debate in parliament.”
British unarmed nuclear missile ‘veered towards US mainland’ in test firing http://www.news.com.au/world/british-unarmed-nuclear-missile-veered-towards-us-mainland-in-test-firing/news-story/1c54697418967b79ff406bc805104709 JANUARY 23, 2017 THE UK government has been accused of a cover up after failing to disclose that an unarmed nuclear missile may have been mistakenly fired at the US mainland.
Toshiba faces pressure to secure funding for UK nuclear project, Ft.com by: Andrew Ward and Jim Pickard in London, 22 Jan 17 Toshiba is facing pressure to secure investment from a South Korean energy group and the UK government to keep afloat a multibillion-pound British nuclear power project as the Japanese conglomerate struggles with mounting financial difficulties.
Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has been in talks for months to join the NuGen consortium planning a nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria alongside Toshiba and Engie of France. The need for new partners has been increased by huge writedowns on Toshiba’s nuclear business in the US, which has left the group scrambling to shore up its balance sheet. As well as Korean capital, Toshiba is angling for UK government investment in the Cumbrian project after Theresa May’s administration recently signalled its willingness to put public money into new nuclear plants. This would represent a reversal of longstanding UK policy not to expose taxpayers’ money to the heavy expense and high risks involved in building nuclear reactors.
A Whitehall official said it was “premature” to talk about government involvement in financing Moorside but several other people involved in the process or briefed on the matter said the option of public investment was on the table. But these people said a more immediate step to keep the scheme on track was the proposal for Toshiba to sell part of its 60 per cent stake in NuGen to Kepco, the utility majority-owned by the South Korean government. “Talks have been moving slowly but the financial difficulties facing Toshiba will hopefully focus minds on getting a deal done,” said one person close to the talks.
It emerged last month that the UK and Japanese governments were in talks about potential joint support for a new nuclear plant planned by Hitachi, another Japanese conglomerate, at Wylfa in Anglesey. One senior nuclear industry figure said these discussions also extended to potential government financing for Moorside. Shares in Toshiba have fallen by 44 per cent since the group warned last month that it would have to make writedowns of “several billion dollars” related to the $229m acquisition last year of Stone & Webster, the US nuclear construction company, by Toshiba’s US nuclear technology unit, Westinghouse……..
Public investment in new nuclear plants would be a striking illustration of Mrs May’s determination to intervene more heavily in industrial strategy, a policy she was expected to set out in a discussion paper on Monday. The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We are working closely with a number of developers on proposed new nuclear projects in the UK, as they develop their plans.” https://www.ft.com/content/c0b01308-e0aa-11e6-8405-9e5580d6e5fb