The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes with interest the UK Government’s announcement that it will pull out of the Euratom Treaty. This is part of the international agreements it has decided to withdraw from after the decision of the electorate to vote to leave the European Union (EU) (often known as ‘Brexit’). NFLA believes this decision has a direct impact on plans to develop new nuclear power stations in England and Wales, and all such developments should now be put on hold while greater clarity is found over what the UK Government will now do when it leaves the Euratom arrangements.
NFLA, like many groups and some EU member states, see the Euratom Treaty as one of the most direct ways the nuclear industry has promoted nuclear power in Europe over the past 60 years. It has often been the inside track from which pro-nuclear governments have ensured support for nuclear power within the European Commission. From that perspective NFLA see this as an ideal time for a major and all encompassing reform of the Euratom Treaty to take account of the changed energy market in the EU, where renewable energy is rapidly expanding and nuclear power is in decline.
Euratom does though also contain a number of key nuclear safety, regulatory and security arrangements within it, so it remains important that such cooperation in these areas is maintained throughout this complicated policy process.
NFLA has been keeping a watching brief on what the UK Government would do with its involvement in the Euratom Treaty ever since the June 2016 UK ‘Brexit’ referendum. The UK Government has now announced its plans to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty imminently to start negotiations to leave the EU. Within this announcement, it also confirmed plans to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty as it is “uniquely legally joined” to the EU and continued membership would mean oversight by the European Court of Justice, one of the Government’s ‘red lines’ on ‘Brexit’.
NFLA notes the comments of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) that withdrawal from Euratom could cause “major disruption” to the industry. Such a potential failure to sort out new arrangements before ‘Brexit’ occurs could have what the NIA also calls “potentially serious consequences for both existing generation and nuclear new build projects”.
‘The Times’ newspaper also notes that EDF Energy, the ‘Horizon’ Partnership and the ‘Nugen Ltd’ Partnership, which are developing plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, Wylfa and at Sellafield Moorside, could face specific problems because their plans involve direct co-operation with nuclear companies from countries which are either in Euratom or have nuclear co-operation agreements with Euratom. Until the UK makes a bilateral agreement with the countries involved, including France, Japan and the US, it may well be potentially illegal for these companies to continue working with the UK until these agreements are in place.
In addition, NFLA further notes the recent comments of EDF, that ‘Brexit’ could increase “the costs of essential new infrastructure developments and could delay their delivery”. (1)
NFLA calls on the UK Government to provide urgent clarification on the implications of the decision to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty and ensure European safety, regulatory and security arrangements are fully maintained throughout this complicated process.
This comes at a time when the ‘Nugen’ lead operator Toshiba announced over the weekend that it will cease taking orders related to the building of new nuclear power stations, in a move that could mark its withdrawal from the nuclear plant construction business. This is due to a massive write-down of up to $8 billion with the company’s U.S. nuclear business. NFLA calls on Toshiba to urgently clarify its position with developing new nuclear reactors at Sellafield Moorside. NFLA would welcome it pulling the plug on this unnecessary nuclear development. (2)
EDF is also in severe financial problems across much of its nuclear business, while both Toshiba and Hitachi have been actively lobbying the UK and Japanese Governments for direct state support in building new nuclear reactors. NFLA urgently call on the UK Government to review its support for new nuclear and formulate a new energy policy that prioritises renewables, energy storage and energy efficiency.
NFLA is currently developing a Policy Briefing on ‘Brexit and nuclear policy’ but had been awaiting the decision on Euratom. This Policy Briefing will be published shortly as the implications of this decision are fully clarified.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
The decision for the UK Government to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty is not a surprising one given the Brexit vote but it has huge implications not just for new nuclear build, but nuclear safety, regulation and security. Whilst NFLA hopes this will be the decision that leads to the end of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ in the UK and see moves to restore support for renewables, it also wants to ensure a break with Euratom does not lead to any break with a strong and robust nuclear safety regime across Europe. With Toshiba’s nuclear plans now also seemingly in chaos, it is time to take the life support machine off new nuclear and embrace renewables in the same way as so many of our fellow EU states have already done.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Times 27th Jan 2017