Your Big Read analysis of the implications of the UK leaving the EU nuclear agency, Euratom, as part of Brexit, covered many important aspects, but was inaccurate in a number of aspects. (“Brexit’s nuclear fallout,“ March 3
This is in part because your reporters depend in great part (myself excepted) on citing academics and other nuclear industry insiders who have a vested interest in the status quo. Indeed, it reflects the extraordinary lobby on behalf of Euratom demonstrated in the House of Lords by several dozen peers in their Parliamentary debate on March 3, on an amendment trying to protect UK membership of Euratom, in which not one spoke against Euratom, including the Government minister in opposing the amendment! (https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2017-03-01/debates/EE9DF3A9-2E05-4568-8CF8-A61F11172391/EuropeanUnion(NotificationOfWithdrawal)Bill)
To focus on one example, your article asserts that “British ministers must renegotiate a relationship with Euratom where no template for close co-operation with outsiders exists.
In fact, currently international inspection of UK nuclear plants and nuclear explosive materials to ensure the UK pledge not todivert these plants or materials to military misuse is verified Euratom on behalf of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, under a treaty agreed in 1977, and signed in September 1978, between the UK, Euratom and the IAEA.
Indeed, this issue was raised by Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas MP in a written question shortly after the Brexit referendum, when she asked the business and energy secretary “what steps would be needed to replace EU Atomic Energy Community safeguards inspectors with International Atomic Energy Agency Inspectors to implement safeguards provisions on (a) UK nuclear installations and (b) nuclear material used and created at UK nuclear sites under treaties to which the UK is a party?” (Hansard, 3 August 2016)
She was told by energy minister, Jesse Norman, who responded with following evasive reply: “Until the UK leaves the EU, it is expected to remain a full member with all relevant rights and obligations. The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy will continue to work closely with stakeholders and the rest of Government during our negotiations to exit the EU to deliver energy which is secure, affordable and clean.”
As the UK’s nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation puts it “The UK voluntary offer safeguards agreement with the IAEA and Euratom came into force in 1978 and specifies the UKs acceptance of the application of IAEA safeguards "On all source or special fissionable material in facilities or parts thereof within the United Kingdom, subject to exclusions for national security reasons only," adding” As part of measures to strengthen the global safeguards regime, the UK has agreed an additional protocol with the IAEA and Euratom which supplements its voluntary offer safeguards agreement.(http://www.onr.org.uk/safeguards/iaeauk.htm)
This came into force in April 2004 and is implemented under the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2000 and the accompanying Nuclear Safeguards (Notifications) Regulations 2004.
It is now time energy and foreign ministers and their advisors turn their attention to what they are going to do to ensure nuclear safeguards continuity in the UK post Brexit to avoid the UK becoming a nuclear rogue state.