Are UK nuclear power stations at risk after Brexit?

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Rupert Cowen, a senior nuclear energy lawyer at Prospect Law, has suggested that trade in nuclear fuels could be greatly affected when the UK withdraws from the Euratom, in parallel with Brexit.  It could ultimately lead to reactor shut downs as fuel runs out if replacement international safety agreements are not made in time.

The Euratom treaty has governed the peaceful use of nuclear energy across the EU since 1957.

Concerns voiced

Mr Cowens concerns were voiced while giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee over the withdrawal. A former government adviser has also suggested that the UK nuclear sector would be ‘crippled’ if replacement nuclear cooperation arrangements were not in place before withdrawal takes place.

 Other key concerns include:

  • the UK’s position in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project in France;
  • the future of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and the Joint European Torus (JET) project; and
  • increased nuclear sector regulatory costs and the delay to the UK’s new nuclear programme.

Following the great concern over the development from senior actors in the nuclear sector, Jesse Norman, government energy minister, said: “We take this extremely seriously and are devoting serious resources [to looking at new arrangements],”

Energy expert insight

 “Brexit will lead to an unanticipated problem, withdrawal from Euratom. This will cut the UK off from R and D in nuclear research and regulation elsewhere in Europe. It will also put at risk the funding for the Joint European Torus (JET) project with the possible loss of a thousand specialist jobs.” Professor (Emeritus) Ian Fells CBE FRSE FREng.

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