The government has announced that key building blocks of the UK’s post-Brexit nuclear safeguarding regime have been assembled.
The Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which is designed to create a new regulatory framework to replace that currently provided by the Euratom treaty, was passed by the House of Lords on Wednesday.
And the UK signed two new agreements yesterday in Vienna with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) covering nuclear safeguarding and non-proliferation. They replace existing trilateral arrangements between the IAEA, Euratom and the UK.
The new agreements ensure that the IAEA retains its right to inspect all UK civil nuclear facilities, ensuring international verification of this country’s safeguarding activity continues to be robust.
The UK has already signed a new Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the USA, although this is yet to be ratified by Parliament or the US Congress.
During the final debate on the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which took place on Wednesday, the government amended the legislation under pressure from the House of Lords for an additional safety net.
An amendment passed during an earlier stage of the bill’s passage through the Lords would have obliged the government to request a suspension of the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom if alternative safeguarding arrangements are not in place on 1 March.
Under the government’s replacement amendment, the secretary of state would have to ask the EU for “corresponding” Euratom arrangements to continue if an agreement had not been signed.
Lord Henley, junior business minister, said in the debate that the government is recruiting and training a “large number” of new safeguarding inspectors.