This important article was published yesterday:
Paul Flynn asks question on who will be our nuclear watchdog
Wales on Sunday, June 26 2016
THE regulation of nuclear power stations in Britain has been thrown into doubt by the UK vote to leave the European Union.
Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn has tabled parliamentary questions to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, seeking to clarify what will happen to international inspections in a pro-Brexit scenario.
Dr David Lowry, a nuclear expert and an adviser to Mr Flynn, said: “As a member of the EU, the UK is also a member of the European Atomic Energy Community, usually abbreviated to Euratom, headquartered in Luxembourg.
“Euratom has both a supply agency, to provide nuclear fuel and co-ordinate uranium supplies – a sort of multiple five-year Soviet-style nuclear supply plan – for EU member states; and, importantly, Euratom also implements safeguards on nuclear materials and at nuclear plants to verify the UK has not diverted such materials or facilities to military misuse.
“Euratom also does basic radiation protection and reactor safety and nuclear waste management research and development via the EU Joint Research Centres, for which the UK provides annual multi-million-pound donations to the EU.”
The EU Treaty – the document which sets the rules for EU agencies – says one of the main functions of Euratom is to establish uniform safety standards to protect the health of workers and the general public and ensure they are applied.
Each member state is required to provide the European Commission with the general data relating to any plan for the disposal of nuclear waste.
At the same time, the assent of the Commission is required where these plans are liable to affect the territories of other member states.
But, said Dr Lowry, all this will end as the UK withdraws.
There is a UK safety ( and security) regulator called the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), but it is funded by the nuclear industry and reports to the UK Government.
Euratom inspects the Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey.
A quarterly report produced by ONR in September 2015 stated: “During a Euratom inspection of radioactive sources with nuclear material it was discovered that there were two items that were not declared to Euratom but should have been as they contained nuclear material.
“Uranyl Nitrate and Thorium Nitrate were both being held in the redundant bonded source store.
“The inspector requested these items be reported in the next Inventory Change Report as accidental arisings.
“This incident relates to another find of nuclear material. About a year ago Wylfa reported the find of some small radioactive sources. These were brought onto the inventory.
“Euratom wanted to verify these sources during the recent Physical Inventory Verification.
“During this verification the Euratom inspector found another two items in the source store cupboard.
“Subsequent investigation of source stores inside and outside the reactor building has not found any other undeclared items.”
Dr Lowry said: “The unaddressed question is who will replace Euratom in the nuclear safeguards inspections, as the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, which undertakes this role for countries outside the EU, is already under-resourced and overstretched, with Iran, North Korea, and other dodgy nuclear nations to keep an eye on.
“So what is going to happen? Who will act as the UK’s atomic watchdog?”