The government has set out its plans for the UK’s post-Brexit regime for safeguarding nuclear materials.
The Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which was introduced to Parliament today (11 October), bolsters the safeguarding roles and responsibilities of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) once the UK leaves Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community), which is expected to happen in 2019.
Euratom currently provides the legal framework across the EU for nuclear safeguarding. This covers the reporting and verification processes countries use to show they are not misusing civil atomic materials for military purposes. Countries require safeguarding arrangements in order to trade civil nuclear materials and labour.
Enegry minister Richard Harrington promised that the bill would maintain the current “high standards” of nuclear safeguarding the UK enjoys through its membership of Euratom.
He said: “We are bringing forward the UK’s first new nuclear power plants in a generation and it is in our mutual benefit to maintain the successful working relationship we have now with Europe, and the rest of the world, on nuclear matters. This is what we will be looking to secure in negotiations with our partners.”
Commenting on the bill’s publication, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said that it was a “necessary legislative step” in transferring responsibility for safeguarding to the ONR.
But he warned that much more needed to be done to avoid disruption to the UK’s nuclear industry following Brexit.
“It is just one small part of the incredibly complex and time-consuming process to replicate existing regulation if we leave Euratom at the same time as the European Union,” he added. “The UK industry’s primary concern remains the risk of significant disruption if we cease to be members of Euratom without new arrangements being in place.
“This bill does not provide reassurance on that, and is why the government’s priority should be seeking agreement with the European Commission to ensure there are transitional agreements in place, including continuing association to Euratom programmes.”