A domestic nuclear safeguards regime will be established to ensure Britain’s withdrawal from Euratom does not affect standards, the Business Secretary has announced.
Greg Clark said the scheme would ensure the UK maintains its position as a “responsible nuclear state” and that withdrawal from Europe’s nuclear regulator would not “result in the weakening of our future safeguards standards and oversight in the UK”.
The Government’s decision to leave Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community, after Brexit sparked a flurry of criticism, with fears it it could restrict access to vital isotopes used to treat cancer patients.
But in a written statement Mr Clark said the new domestic nuclear safeguards regime – to be run by the Office for Nuclear Regulation – would be as “comprehensive and robust as that currently provided by Euratom”.
He said: “The government has therefore decided that it will be establishing a domestic regime which will deliver to existing Euratom standards and exceeds the standard that the international community would require from the UK as a member of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). International oversight will be a key part of the future regime.
“The UK is seeking to conclude new agreements with the IAEA that follow the same principles as our current ones.
“This will ensure that the IAEA retains its right to inspect all civil nuclear facilities, and continues to receive all current safeguards reporting, ensuring that international verification of our safeguards activity continues to be robust.”
Mr Clark said discussions with the European Union were ongoing and that the Government would be “exploring a number of options for smooth transition from the current Euratom regime to a domestic one”.
He said the UK intended to maintain a “close and effective” relationship with the Euratom community and that by maintaining current standards they were “providing the best possible basis for continued close cooperation”.
Mr Clark added: “Whatever the outcome of those discussions, the Government is committed to a future regime that provides at least the existing levels of assurance.”