The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) All Ireland Forum calls on the Irish Government to make much more detailed representations to its UK counterpart over their plan to leave the EURATOM Treaty, as part of the wider decision for the UK to leave the European Union.
The ‘Irish Times’ reports today comments made by the Irish Energy Minister Denis Naughten that he has received assurances from his UK equivalent Greg Clark and officials that the process for the UK nuclear regulator to take over the role of policing the safety and security arrangements of nuclear sites, particularly Sellafield, instead of independent and external Euratom inspectors, is fully on time. (1)
NFLA has long been concerned that the Government has been influenced by the ‘cosy chats’ it has with its UK equivalents on nuclear policy, which are not subject to any real openness and transparency. Minister Naughten also saying he is happy with the assurances given by the UK Government does not seem to chime with recent information leaked to Sky News just a month ago. (2)
In this report by the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation, who will take on the role that EURATOM inspectors currently undertake, it identifies five “high-level risks” in setting up a new domestic nuclear safeguards regime. These include:
- Work on a new IT system, which should have started by the end of March 2018, is already behind and the deadline has already been “irretrievably lost”, the document says.
- The other four areas categorised as “red” on a ‘red, amber, green’ (RAG) project management ranking, include recruiting enough safety inspectors, a lack of detailed training for them and adequate funding for the new regime.
- The report also notes that a failure to arrange the “comprehensive handover” of requisite hardware from EURATOM inspectors to the ONR is a real risk.
NFLA is puzzled Minister Naughten is so reassured given the detail of this report from the actual regulator planned to provide the new domestic nuclear safeguards regime in the UK. The NFLA All Ireland Forum calls on the Government to follow up the content of this report with its UK counterpart and be generally much more critical in its discussion on UK nuclear developments.
The leaving of the UK from the Euratom Treaty should also be of interest to the Government for another reason, as it should allow for significant reform of the Treaty to take into account the changing energy landscape in Europe. While EURATOM is about ensuring nuclear safety and security, it is also used as an internal advocate for nuclear power across the EU.
Last week, the Environment Ministers of Germany, Austria and Luxembourg called for an end to financial support for new nuclear power plants in the European Union. The three ministers also jointly called on the European Commission to take into greater consideration the positions of countries that either do not use nuclear energy, or are in the process of stopping its use. This includes potential reform of the EURATOM Treaty, which was an agreed policy within the coalition agreement for the new German Government. NFLA encourages Ireland to join with these three influential EU states to be more vocal in the support of renewables over nuclear power in the European Union. (3)
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co-Chairs Councillors Mark Dearey and John Trainor said:
“While it is to be welcomed that the Irish and UK Governments regularly talk about nuclear safety and security matters, we are concerned that these cosy discussions do not provide Ireland with all the facts about these important issues. Ireland is geographically very close to the UK and could easily be impacted by an accident at one of its nuclear plants. How can the Irish Government be fully reassured that the UK are fully on track with post EURATOM arrangements when a report out just last month suggested significant delays and challenges for the UK nuclear regulator with this process? Ireland should also seek to work with other EU states who prefer renewable energy over nuclear power to call for fundamental reform of the EURATOM Treaty and its preferential place with energy policy and the European Commission. Ireland regularly called for this in the past, and should do so now in the present.”
Dr Paul Dorfman, NFLA’s representative to the Irish EPA Radiation Issues Committee, adds:
“The UK has EURATOM safety regimes which have taken a lot of time to put in place – including key safeguards and assurances. Leaving EURATOM will have serious safety and security implications for UK new-build installations, the nuclear fuel cycle and the UK’s enormous waste and decommissioning liabilities.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Irish Times, 18th June 2018
(2) Sky News, 16th May 2018
(3) Clean Energy Wire, 13th June 2018