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MPs urge Government to retain close ties with European nuclear industry body

Euratom was set up in 1957 and regulates the nuclear industry across Europe.

The Government is being urged to retain a close association with the body which regulates the nuclear industry across Europe as MPs step up calls to guarantee protections for the sector.

More than 100 MPs have signed a Parliamentary amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill dealing with the Government’s intention to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Eurotom).

Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business Select Committee, and a number of Conservative MPs signed the amendment, which calls on the Government to bring any new strategy for the nuclear industry to Parliament.

The committee said in a new report that a “no-deal” Brexit would be a “highly risky” option for the civil nuclear industry, in the absence of transitional arrangements.

Without nuclear co-operation agreements, and an international safeguards regime – currently delivered by Euratom – the UK will not be able to guarantee access to materials essential to the running the country’s nuclear power stations, said the committee.

Ms Reeves said: “As a leading member of Euratom, the UK has driven standards and ensured our national interests are front and centre of the development of the industry in Europe.

“But we now face the prospect of setting up our own nuclear safeguarding regime in its place which falls short of Euratom standards.

“This requires us to set up our own bureaucracy, which comes at a cost of millions, with very real doubts that it will actually be ready in time.

“The Government should, as a matter of urgency, be seeking to retain as close as possible an association with Euratom and secure its ongoing delivery of existing safeguards requirements in the UK.

“Any delay will increase investment in contingency arrangements which may ultimately not be required.”

Rachel Reeves (Danny Lawson/PA)

The committee said it was “highly doubtful” that the UK could deliver safeguards to Euratom standards by the date of the UK’s departure from the EU in March 2019.

The MPs called for an extended transitional period for civil nuclear, or the continuation of Euratom support, to ensure standards are maintained and the risks to trade and transport of materials are reduced.

Euratom was set up in 1957 and regulates the nuclear industry across Europe, safeguarding the transport of nuclear materials, disposing of waste, and carrying out research.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The nuclear industry has been clear that leaving Euratom has the potential to cause significant disruption to the industry both in the UK and the EU.

“We welcome the recognition this report, and the evidence the committee received, gives to the validity of these concerns, and the clear message that action must be taken and alternative arrangements put in place before the UK leaves the treaty, to ensure we avoid a damaging cliff edge.”

Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB union, said: “The crisis over Euratom is entirely of the Government’s own making and risks collapsing the UK’s entire nuclear industry – including severely delaying the new £18 billion Hinkley Point C power plant – for little more than ideologically driven axe-grinding.

“As GMB has maintained for nearly a year now, there is no need to leave Euratom.

“Instead it would be sensible to delay any changes to our membership of Euratom until arrangements are agreed and in place that guarantee UK nuclear interests are protected.

“Britain must have a replacement that protects the whole country’s interests, or sufficient time to mirror existing safeguards and agreements.”

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