Government announces nuclear Bill to replace Euratom

The Government has announced that one of the 8 Brexit Bills in the Queens speech is a Nuclear Safeguards Bill which seeks to replace the provisions of the Euratom Treaty. The Bill will give the Office for Nuclear Regulation powers to take on the role and responsibilities required to meet international nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation obligations.

However, the Bill on its own cannot replace Euratom for the UK in all respects as Euratom while itself established by treaty has its own treaty relationships with other countries around the world such as the USA and Japan. The UK will still need to replicate these treaties with those third countries as well as with Euratom itself in order that the industry can continue to operate as it currently does. The information so far announced on the Bill is silent on this point and so the uncertainty will continue in this regard.

This has also been highlighted by the Nuclear Industry Association’s Chief Executive Tom Greatrex who said, “Laying a Nuclear Safeguards Bill before Parliament may be a necessary legislative step to enabling the Office for Nuclear Regulation to take on safeguarding inspection responsibilities if the UK ceases to be part of Euratom. However, Government should not be so complacent to assume this alone gets close to resolving the issues they have created.”

“The process of replicating safeguarding inspections, agreeing a series of nuclear co-operation agreements with other countries (including EU states), and guaranteeing world-leading international research into fusion at Culham in Oxfordshire, is complex and likely to be subject to intensive negotiation.”

“In a week when the Chancellor has said leaving the EU should be done in a way that minimises the impact on jobs, growth and economic activity, the UK Government must ensure this is the case. If they are absolutely wedded to leaving Euratom, there must be transitional arrangements in place to prevent a damaging cliff-edge in 21 months’ time.”

“Even at this late stage, seeking to negotiate a way to retain membership of Euratom is an infinitely preferable outcome. For a minority Government to announce a Bill, with no prior consultation, is largely symbolic and leaves much work to do.”