Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Nuclear Fission over Euratom exit: UK departure from EU nuclear watchdog kick starts huge nuclear industry rear-guard defence campaign


Recently in the United Kingdom a major political debate has broken out over whether the planned departure by the UK from the European Union also must mean the UK’s departure from Euratom [European Atomic Energy Community] (“What Euratom really stands for…”,The New European, 20-26 July 2017,

An explanatory  interpretation The UK Brexits Euratom: Legal Framework and Future Developments, published on  30 January 2017(  was provided by Professor Steve Peers, a specialist in EU law at the University of Essex (UK) (

He wrote: “The UK government’s draft bill ( on triggering Article 50 TEU, the EU withdrawal clause (the ‘Article 50 Bill’) had a surprise for some. Tucked away in the explanatory memorandum of the bill was a note explaining that the UK intended not only to leave the EU but also the separate (but linked) European Atomic Energy Community – Euratom for short.”

He explained the complex  legal framework thus


“The Euratom treaty is a separate treaty from the treaty which initially created what was the European Economic Community (EEC) – now known as the European Union (EU). Equally, Euratom is a separate international organisation from the EU. But there have always been close links between the two. The founding treaties were negotiated together, and they have always had the same membership. They shared some institutions from the outset in 1958, and all institutions from 1967, when the ‘Merger Treaty’ brought together the separate Councils and Commissions which the three Communities (the EEC, Euratom and the European Coal and Steel Community) had until then.


Since that point, the provisions on the institutions in the Euratom Treaty have been updated every time the corresponding rules in the EEC Treaty were amended. Those institutional rules are now split between the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) – as the EEC Treaty is now called – and the Treaty on European Union (TEU). The link between the latter two treaties, which are the legal basis for the EU, and the Euratom Treaty, is now set out in Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty, which was inserted by the Treaty of Lisbon.


In a debate in the UK Parliament on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill held on 1 February this year, the then British minister for Brexit, David Jones, stated clearly the UK Government position on Euratom;

 “Euratom an d the EU share a common institutional framework, including the European Court of Justice, a role for the Commission and decision making in the Council, making them uniquely legally joined. Triggering article 50 therefore also entails giving notice to leave Euratom. The nuclear industry is of key strategic importance to the UK, and we have been clear that this does not affect our intention to maintain close and effective arrangements relating to civil nuclear co-operation, safeguards and safety with Europe and the rest of the world.” (


The Annual report of the Department for Business, Energy and Innovation Strategy (BEIS)- responsible for nuclear policy – published on 19 July, stated (page 19):We are maintaining a strong nuclear safeguards regime outside of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). When we triggered Article 50 we committed to leaving Euratom as well as the EU – these are separate treaties but they are legally entwined and share a common EU budget and EU institutions. Our objective in the negotiations will be to continue a constructive relationship of full co-operation with Euratom after we have left. We are confident that the EU wants the same outcome. The UK will continue to meet all its international obligations in respect of nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation, and it was announced in the Queen’s Speech that the Government will bring forward legislation to establish a UK nuclear safeguards regime. This change should not have any adverse impact on our existing nuclear.” (

A British House of Commons Library briefing paper on Euratom, published on 7 July,  ( explained that “ Euratom, was established in 1957 as part of the creation of the European Community. The UK became a member of both on 1 January 1973. Euratom provides the basis for the regulation of civilian nuclear activity, implements a system of safeguards to control the use of nuclear materials, controls the supply of fissile materials within EU member states and funds leading international research such as the Culham Centre of Fusion Energy.)

According to this paper “Leaving Euratom has the potential to impact the UK’s current nuclear operations, including fuel supply, waste management, cooperation with other nuclear states, and research. Industry has warned of a “cliff edge” exit that could cause “major disruption to business across the whole nuclear fuel cycle.” The UK will need to take on a number of measures to leave Euratom smoothly and some are concerned that the timetable for achieving these measures is ambitious.”

The BEIS) select committee in the House of Commons has recommended delaying the departure from Euratom to give the nuclear industry time to set up alternative arrangements.

The annual UK Government legislative program (“The Queen’s Speech”) contained a Nuclear Safeguards Bill to give the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) powers to take on the role and responsibilities of Euratom, required to meet international safeguards, and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

( Commons Briefing papers CBP-8036; full report EURATOM (, 554.17 KB)

A UK Government position paper  Nuclear materials and safeguards issues (  issued on 13 July expands the details of the new safeguards regime as follows:

“As part of the UK’s orderly withdrawal, and to provide certainty to industry and reassurance to all, it is important to work through the following issues in the initial phases of discussion:

 nuclear safeguards arrangements; and

 provision of legal certainty on immediate issues related to nuclear material in both the UK and Euratom.

7. These issues are set out in further detail below. The UK looks forward to addressing further issues as a priority in the negotiations once the European Commission has further developed its approach in these areas. This will include nuclear research and development, regulatory and wider cooperation, trade and the mobility of nuclear workers and researchers. As with all issues related to the UK’s withdrawal, it is clear these issues are closely linked to the future relationship. The UK is keen to discuss this as quickly as possible, in order to establish a close working relationship between the UK and the Euratom Community.


Nuclear safeguards arrangements

8. The UK remains firmly committed to maintaining its role as a responsible Nuclear Weapons State and non-proliferation leader, and to ensuring that a UK nuclear safeguards regime is in place that is commensurate with its international obligations through the IAEA.

9. In order to ensure this, the UK will:

 agree a Voluntary Offer Agreement with the IAEA that sets out the UK’s primary safeguards arrangements in international law;

 take responsibility for meeting the UK’s safeguards obligations, as agreed with the IAEA;

 in line with the specific circumstances of the UK and respecting the UK’s current obligations, agree Nuclear Cooperation Agreements between the UK and key non-EU/Euratom States, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan - these agreements will underline the UK’s commitment to upholding the safeguards obligations agreed with the IAEA;


work closely with the European Commission to ensure a smooth transition to its new arrangements, including the setup of the new safeguards regime; and

seek to ensure that the UK’s new regime provides for continued close cooperation with the Euratom Community.


Euratom safeguards equipment

10. As part of the transition to a new nuclear safeguards regime in the UK, it is important to agree the future ownership and liabilities for safeguards equipment that is currently owned by the Euratom Community and located in the UK.

11. The UK will ensure that all necessary safeguards equipment is in place to comply with its IAEA obligations. As part of this, further consideration will be given to the possibility of the UK taking ownership of existing Euratom-owned equipment. This will need to be rooted in a common understanding of the fair value and liabilities of the equipment concerned, and interactions with the EU budget.”


On fissile material stocks and ownership it states: 

“The ownership of all special fissile material that is currently with the Euratom Community by virtue of Article 86 of the Treaty, and which is present on UK territory on the date of withdrawal, should transfer to the persons or undertakings with the right of use and consumption of the material pursuant to Article 87 of the Treaty. This should apply in relation to all persons or undertakings with the right of use and consumption, whether these are established in the UK, EU or non-EU states.

15. The ownership of all special fissile material that is currently with the Euratom Community by virtue of Article 86 of the Treaty, and which is present on the Euratom territory on the date of withdrawal, and the right of use and consumption of which pursuant to Article 87 of the Treaty is with a natural or legal person established in the UK, should be transferred to the persons or undertakings with the right of use and consumption on the date this material is exported from the Euratom territory to the UK.”



This iissue was first raised intheUK shortly after the referendum resulton Brexit, ion 23 June 2016, when Green Party  MP Caroline Lucas ((Brighton, Pavilion) asked BEIS on  11 July 2016 (Written Question number  42312): “

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.?”

The then energy minister at BEIS, Jesse Norman, did not provide much of a political steer in his answer, which stated blandly on 3 August 2016:

“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.”

Radwaste return-to-sender?

The international business and finance newspaper, the Financial Times, reported on 19 July  ( that Britain has “put the EU on notice that it has the right to return radioactive waste to the bloc after it leaves, in an attempt to increase the UK’s negotiating clout on the vexed issue of nuclear regulation. UK officials hope raising complex questions over what should happen to Britain’s stockpile of radioactive materials — some of which originate from EU countries including Germany, Italy and Sweden — will convince Brussels to take a co-operative approach to the nuclear issue.

 “It might just be a reminder that a boatload of plutonium could end up at a harbour in Antwerp unless an arrangement is made,” said one nuclear expert who has advised the government. Leaders of the UK nuclear industry are lobbying the government to find a way of remaining part of Euratom or, if that proves impossible, to negotiate an extended transition deal to allow time to establish a new regulatory system.”

However, the FT stressed “either of those options would require continued jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice — something Theresa May, UK prime minister, has so far resisted. Those arguing for Mrs May to compromise have highlighted the threat of disruption to UK supplies of nuclear fuel, reactor parts and medical isotopes used in cancer treatments if Britain fails to reach a deal with Brussels.”

This report is based on a curious confusion and a worrying level of ignorance by anonymous so-called nuclear experts cited to have advised the UK Government.


It a is both an empty and a totally counter-productive threat to return fissile materials ( and radioactive wastes)  to countries of origin in the EU, as part of a negotiating  posture on Brexit by the UK.


On 19 January this year, BEIS  announced it  had agreed to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) taking ownership of 600 kg of material previously owned by a Spanish utility, and  of 5 kg of material previously owned by a German organisation.


BEIS asserted that "These transactions, which have been agreed by the Euratom Supply Agency, will not result in any new plutonium being brought into the UK, and will not therefore increase the overall amount of plutonium in the UK." adding  it had "agreed to these transactions on the grounds that they offer a cost-effective and beneficial arrangement, which allows the UK to gain national control over more of the civil plutonium located in the UK, and facilitates conclusion of outstanding contracts with the Spanish and German" (


Preceding this, three years ago, on 3 July 2014 the UK announced that it had struck an agreement with German and Swedish governments to take title to 140 kgs of plutonium in the former case, and 800 kgs in the latter, arising from the reprocessing at Sellafield and management at Dounreay respectively of spent nuclear fuel from the two nations. (;


And, earlier, in April 2013, BEIS's predecessor department, DECC, announced in a statement on management of oversees owned plutonium   it was taking over 750 kg of plutonium belonging to German utilities, 1,850 kg previously loaned from France, and 350 kg from Dutch firm GKN. At the same time, 650 kg of plutonium stored at Sellafield was transferred from German to Japanese ownership.(


A similar deal with Germany in in 2012 saw the UK take ownership of  4,000 kgs of plutonium. (

Thus the overseas ownership of plutonium in the UK has gradually been transferred to the UK. Thus there is no prospect of any ship sailing towards  Antwerp (or any other EU port) as the nuclear expert cited fancifully imagined.

It is possible that some of reprocessing waste arising from the chemical separation of imported foreign spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield could be returned-to-sender in a fit of pique  by DexEU. However, BEIS has already- through its predecessor department- indicated it wanted to adopt a policy of substitution" based on "radiotoxic equivalence" to  the reprocessing nuclear waste stockpile to minimize the volumes of waste shipped back to continental Europe.

A BEIS official said at a nuclear policy forum meeting of interested non-governmental parties on 18 July that the department has a team of dedicated staff looking in detail at all the ramifications of withdrawal from Euratom for UK nuclear policy. Perhaps DexEU officials should consult these in-house experts over Euratom before issuing empty threats.



Medical radioisotopes


Another key issue raised by nuclear proponents is whether Euratom is essential to facilitate the import of medical radiochemicals/isotopes for use in the British  health service. Brussels- based nuclear consultant, Mark Johnston, in his blog Euratom fact-check, ( on 23 July asserts:

“Euratom does not place any export restrictions on medical isotopes so the future trade in such goods will not be affected if Brexit goes ahead. This is a red herring. 

But this viewpoint has been challenged both politically and institutionally. In a Parliamentary debate ( held in the House of Lords (UK upper House of Parliament) on 20 July, several peers argued Euratom was needed for conitnued assurance of supply of medical radioisotopes.

Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Teverson, who initiated and opened the debate said :

“On a practical basis, [the] Euratom supply agency looks after and ensures the supply of nuclear fuels and radioactive isotopes for the medical area of the whole Euratom community—all 28 of its member states.

He stressed: “Radioactive isotopes identify and treat cancers. In the United Kingdom, some 500,000 procedures use these materials each year. Again, we have no domestic supply. They are very perishable. In fact, the half-life of some is as little as hours, and for the most important ones it is days—and that means that they are perishable. We import the vast majority of them from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, all of which are Euratom member states at the present time. That supply chain is fragile.

I was concerned that the Minister in the other place (Hous e of Commons) , when it had a debate on Euratom, said that there was no issue about medical isotopes because they were not fissile material. I do not want to think that Ministers’ Statements can no longer be trusted, but this is an easy soundbite around a much more complex situation.”

Radioactive medical isotopes are specifically listed in annex IV of chapter 9 of the Euratom treaty, along with other items such as nuclear reactors….. In 2008 the technical issues that created delays and difficulties in the Eurotunnel at the time meant that the isotopes could not be transported quickly and efficiently from other parts of western Europe. That led to a number of cancer procedures being delayed and cancelled here in UK hospitals.

That was followed in 2009 by a world shortage of these isotopes and difficulties in the supply chain. As a result, the Euratom Supply Agency set up the European Observatory on the Supply of Medical Radioisotopes to help the whole of the community solve the long-term problem of ensuring the supply of medical isotopes. That vital work is still continuing and covers all 28 member states.”

Lord Whitty, a Labour peer agreed, arguing:

“[Euratom] is also vital to the provision of medical supplies and treatments

Another Labour peer, Baroness Hayter, added:

“There have been protestsfrom the nuclear industry, the pharmaceutical industry, scientists, oncologists, the Bioindustry Association and the supply agency producing technetium-99m for cancer treatments and diagnosis. We have heard from specialists concerned about future supplies of medical isotopes, given that many of the reactors producing them are coming to the end of their lives.”


Another Liberal Demorat, Lord Oates, added:

“I had hoped that by now the Government would have seen the error of their obduracy and reversed their position on Euratom… I want to touch in particular on the implications for the National Health Service and, most importantly, for all of us who in the future may become patients requiring treatment with medical radioisotopes.

I know the importance of this matter because my partner was recently treated by the fantastic staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Fulham. The treatment that he received involved radioisotopes created in a German reactor which supplies the NHS for this purpose..”


Jennifer Cole, a senior research fellow on Resilience and Emergency Management, at the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and Sobhan Vinjamuri, President of the British Nuclear Medicine Society, have jointly written in a Commentary, ‘How will Britain’s potential withdrawal from the Euratom Treaty affect the supply of radiopharmaceuticals?’ (’s-potential-withdrawal-euratom-treaty-affect-supply-radiopharmaceuticals) published on 21 July 2017

They argue that the UK’s ability to ensure a reliable and consistent supply of pharmaceuticals” is highly vulnerable to supply chain disruption.” Lack of in-country manufacturing capability makes the UK  reliant on overseas imports, which in turn are vulnerable to market pressures and international trade arrangements, they stress..

The British Nuclear Medicine Society (BNMS) and other key stakeholders question the degree to which it is realistic to expect that withdrawal will not have a negative impact on the UK nuclear medicine industry. They point out:

“Medical isotopes are chemicals that undergo radioactive decay. The excess radiation they emit enables diagnosis, as it can be picked up by medical scanners to produce images, and as therapy, as it damages harmful cells such as cancers.The UK does not produce any of the longer-lived medical radioisotopes most often used, however, in particular Technetium-99m (99mTc), which is used for more than 80% of diagnostic nuclear medicine scans. The majority of imports are received from EU countries, especially the Netherlands and France.99mTc is made from Molybdenum-99 (99Mo), which in turn is made from enriched uranium. A second challenge comes from the aging condition of many reactors, which were built in the 1950s and 60s and are reaching the end of their lifespans. In 2009, two major reactors in the Netherlands and Canada were closed temporarily simultaneously.

The two were responsible for two-thirds of the world’s 99Mo supply, and this led to a major review of the way in which medical isotopes are made and distributed. However, investment in new facilities has not been a high priority and there are conflicting views, including from the OECD and the Association of Imaging Producers & Equipment Suppliers (AIPES), about whether 99mTc shortages will be a problem in future.

Building a new reactor in the UK would take ten years and cost £240–£400million. In the short-term, it might be better for Britain to invest in existing projects in Belgium and the Netherlands, in exchange for guarantee of isotopes, but this raises separate jurisdictional issues for Brexit negotiations.”

They conclude:

“Frank discussions between all relevant stakeholders, including government, industry, professional medical societies and medical royal colleges, is needed to ensure the implications of a withdrawal from Euratom are fully understood and the possible alternatives fully scoped and costed within realistic timeframes.”

The minister, Lord Prior, replied:

“Euratom places no restrictions on the export of medical isotopes to countries outside the EU. It is in everyone’s interests to ensure that there are no restrictions on the export of medical isotopes to countries outside the EU. These isotopes are not subject to Euratom supply agency contracts or to Euratom safeguards. This means that no special arrangements need to be put in place ahead of withdrawal. The UK’s ability to import medical isotopes from Europe and the rest of the world will not be affected.”



Fusion boondoggle

The other special pleading that the threatened withdrawal from Euratom has provoked is from the supporter sof fusion power, and the UK’s pivotal role (at the Culham  fusion research centre in the EU – and   wider international fusion research and development  such as ITER- fusion research program

For example, in the House of Lords debate, Labour peer and former minister, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, stressed:  

“I am chairman of the advisory committee of Tokamak Energy, which is a private sector fusion project.

Euratom has several vital roles which affect us—from timescales of a few hours, as we have been hearing in medical examples, to a long-term programme of dealing with nuclear waste of up to 100,000 years.

Euratom has a very important role in co-ordinating the European contribution to the global project on fusion. Euratom leads the global experiment, which started with JET, which is still at Culham. That will transfer into ITER, which is the international Tokamak in France. The UK plays a major role in these programmes, and how that will happen has to be negotiated.”

Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Bradshaw, agreed, asserting:  

“I live on the nexus of three constituencies, and nearby are Culham, Rutherford and the whole business at Harwell. Lots of people from abroad work there. They have families here and they will be greatly affected by any withdrawal.

The people at the top of the tree in all these things have interchangeable skills and will go and work elsewhere if they cannot work here on a collaborative basis. I underline this: everything in the university and at the research establishments is collaborative work and is funded by the EU on that basis. The free exchange of ideas and the free movement of these people are axiomatic to this continuing.”

Safeguards outside Euratom : who will watch the watchers?

Lord Prior told  peers in the Euratom debate:”

    It is clear that we need continuity and must avoid any break in our safeguards regime.    The UK meets our safeguards standards through our membership of Euratom. The Government’s aim is clear: we want to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with Euratom. We can do so while establishing our own nuclear safeguards regime, using the body that already regulates nuclear security and safety: the Office for Nuclear Regulation. To do that, we need primary legislation.

That is why the Queen’s Speech on 21 June included our intention to take powers to set up a domestic nuclear safeguards regime, in partnership with the Office for Nuclear Regulation, to enable us to continue to meet international safeguards and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

The Government’s primary aim throughout these negotiations will be to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with Euratom and the rest of the world. We are strong supporters of Euratom and that is not going to change. “has the power it needs for a domestic safeguards regime…. We are preparing a domestic nuclear safeguards Bill; we are opening negotiations with the EU; we are talking to third countries about bilateral agreements; finally, of course, we are talking to the International Atomic Energy Agency. My officials have met with IAEA officials in Vienna and had constructive conversations about a new voluntary offer agreement, to replace the current one that we have by virtue of our Euratom membership.”

“Secondly, we are keen to ensure that there is minimal disruption to civil nuclear trade and co-operation with non-European partners. To this end, the Government are negotiating with the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan so that the UK has appropriate nuclear co-operation agreements in place. Government officials have met with the Canadian Government and the Canadian regulators; we have also written to them at ministerial level. Canada is as keen as we are to reach a new agreement on bilateral terms. That is equally true of the USA, Japan and Australia, with all of whom we have started constructive discussions.”


On July 13 the UK Government position paper on “Nuclear materials and safeguards issues,”  (  which includes the  key  suggestion the U.K. will: “take responsibility for meeting the UK’s safeguards obligations, as agree with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).”


The UK government had earlier explained they intend UK nuclear security regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to take over from the independent  safeguards inspectors from Euratom, to ‘self-police’ the British nuclear industry against military misuse.


This is a highly contendable and certainly contentious proposal: just imagine if Iran or North Korea proposed to do that!


It should also be noted that even under the Euratom safeguards regime the UK  has withdrawn fissile nuclear materials, including plutonium, from safeguards on at least 600 occasions since the U.K’s trilateral safeguards treaty with Euratom and IAEA came into force in 1978 (

The European Commission’s own  Position paper transmitted to EU27 on nuclear materials and safeguard equipment (Euratom) released on 23 June (  states the European commission  position on post-Brexit safeguards application in the UK as follows:

“The United Kingdom is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency ("IAEA") and bound by international conventions to which it is a party in its own right. From the withdrawal date, the United Kingdom will have sole responsibility for ensuring its compliance with international obligations arising therefrom. 

Given that the Treaty will cease to apply in the United Kingdom, it appears appropriate that the Withdrawal Agreement set out arrangements for the transfer of the ownership of special fissile materials and Community property located in the United Kingdom used for the purposes of providing safeguards to the United Kingdom, respecting the Community's obligations under international agreements.

The Withdrawal Agreement should also provide that the United Kingdom assume all rights and obligations associated with the ownership of materials or property transferred and should regulate other questions related to material and property under the Treaty, in particular safeguards obligation.”


What kind of future membership, if any, could the UK  have  with Euratom?

David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics at Queen's University Belfast, and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges, writing on 18 July on the blog site of EUROPP –  European Politics and Policy, administered by the European Institute of the London School of Economics at London University (  argues  there is currently no such thing as ‘associate membership’ of Euratom, but that other routes for an association between the UK and Euratom could potentially be pursued.

In so doing, Professor Phinnemore reflects an argument made by Andrew Duff,  Visiting Fellow, European Policy Centre; Liberal MEP 1999-2014, in his own blog analysis, published on 11 July (“ Running Commentary XVI: Brexit and Euratom: No need to panic,”, who explains:


The European Union is founded on three basic treaties. These are the Treaty on European Union, signed at Maastricht in 1992, and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (formerly the Treaty establishing the European Community) that was signed in Rome in 1957 along with the Treaty on the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The UK has been a signatory to all the basic statutes of the EU since its own accession treaty in January 1972. All three treaties were most recently revised by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007, to which they are linked by virtue of Article 1 of Protocol No. 36.
Euratom is therefore a fundamental building block of the European Union and not an accessory. It cannot be separated out from the rest of the Union. Joining the EU means joining Euratom; leaving the EU means leaving Euratom: Article 50 applies automatically to the secession of membership of Euratom.”

He adds:

“Euratom is not a mere agency like the Food Safety Agency or Europol. The institutions of Euratom are the institutions of the EU, and its budget is part of the general budget of the EU. The European Commission has wide powers under the Euratom treaty to regulate the European internal market in nuclear materials, impose safety standards, issue and remove licences to operators such as Sellafield, promote R&D and conduct international negotiations on atomic energy matters through membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
There is no such thing as associate membership of Euratom — or, indeed, of the wider European Union. There is however the possibility for a third country, which the UK will be, to seek an association agreement with the Union, including the continued use of Euratom.”


Professor Phinnemore points out that initial responses to the prospect of UK departure from Euratom have included calls for the UK to pursue ‘associate membership’ with references being made to Switzerland supposedly enjoying such a status.”

Moreover, he argued “ to describe Switzerland’s status vis-à-vis Euratom as ‘associate membership’ is misleading. The Swiss do participate with ‘associated country status’ in a number of Euratom-focused research programmes under the Horizon 2020 programme. Switzerland also has a formal ‘Cooperation Agreement’ with Euratom dating back to 1978. Its focus is controlled thermonuclear fusion and plasma physics. These and other cooperative arrangements between Switzerland and Euratom do not amount, however, to ‘associate membership’. Nor do they mean that Switzerland is an ‘associate’ of either Euratom or the EU.

Established interpretations of the potential scope of association agreements is that the provisions allow for considerable flexibility, and a relationship falling only narrowly short of membership is possible. Walter Hallstein, the first President of the European Commission, declared on various occasions that association, as far as the EC was concerned, could range anywhere between membership minus one per cent and a

With regard to atomic energy, Article 342 of the Ukraine Association Agreement provides for extensive cooperation:

‘to ensure high level of nuclear safety, the clean and peaceful use of nuclear energy, covering all civil nuclear energy activities and stages of the fuel cycle, including production of and trade in nuclear materials, safety and security aspects of nuclear energy, and emergency preparedness, as well as health-related and environmental issues and non-proliferation. In this context, cooperation will also include the further development of policies and legal and regulatory frameworks based on EU legislation and practices, as well as on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards. The Parties shall promote civil scientific research in the fields of nuclear safety and security, including joint research and development activities, and training and mobility of scientists’.

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Davis MP, commented on the future relations with Euratom in an interview with BBC (“Brexit: UK could be 'associate' of EU nuclear body,” BBC on line, 13 July;  an "arbitration arrangement" would have to be agreed.

 Mr Davis told  the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg: "Whether we have an association agreement with the European Union or we have something independent under the International Atomic Energy Authority (sic) , we'll provide the sorts of safeguards that we have today at least."

Mr Davis stressed  such an agreement would not be governed by the European Court of Justice but by an arrangement to be agreed between the UK and the EU. It remains to  be seen if such a proposal is acceptable to EU v chief negotiator, Commissioner Michael Barnier.

As well as the nuclear question, it was also "quite likely" that a new "arbitration arrangement" would be needed to govern the UK's trading relationship with the EU after Brexit, he said.


UK Atomic Energy Authority chairman Professor  Roger Cashmore backed the idea of associate membership of Euratom, asserting he had had "a lot of positive support" from ministers including Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Other comments include:

Tom Greatrex, Nuclear Industry Association (NIA-UK)  chief executive, said: "While containing very little detail, the UK government's position paper demonstrates the complexity of replicating Euratom arrangements in UK regulation and co-operation agreements with third countries which the industry has warned of. The government must therefore make the need for transitional arrangements its starting point in negotiations. Failure to do so will risk precisely the disruption the government state they want to avoid.

UK government charts legal route out of Euratom, World Nuclear News, 13 July 2017;

(“Post-Euratom regime likely to rely on voluntary arrangements,”

Dr Paul Hatchwell, energy editor at ENDs , (“Post-Euratom regime likely to rely on voluntary arrangements,” 17 July 2017 says the UK will be falling back on a series of peer review and voluntary international arrangements on nuclear safety after its controversial withdrawal from EU watchdog Euratom, according to lawyers.

The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)’s Brexit Taskforce, states in a report released on 14 July, says that withdrawal from the Euratom Framework Directive on the Safety of Nuclear Installations could risk weaker standards in future.

On transport of radioactive materials, it says there is uncertainty over how the Euratom Regulation on Shipments of Radioactive Substances between Member States will be imported into UK law.

Another unresolved issue is the future of provisions under a 2006 Euratom recommendation on the management of financial resources for the decommissioning of nuclear installations, spent fuel and radioactive waste, it says.


Labour MP Rachel Reeves, newly elected chairperson of the BEIS Select Committee intheUK Parliament, plans to hold hearing on Euratom in theAutumn, making the planned UK  withdrawal one of her top priorities . She told BBC radio

“We need to do an inquiry into Euratom because 65,000 jobs are in the civil nuclear sector.When we are up and running, I want to do an inquiry into this because so many jobs and research depends on it.”

(“BEIS committee to scrutinise Euratom exit,” Utility Week, 17 July


The European Parliament Brexit ‘pointman’ (negotiator)  Guy Verhofstadt - a former Belgian prime minister -  has said Britain cannot stay a member of the EU nuclear regulator Euratom after Brexit, whether it wants to or not, stressing:

"In my opinion, since in the Lisbon Treaty Euratom and the EU are fully interlinked, you cannot be fully part of Euratom and not part of the European Union ..Because oversight of Euratom is part of the European Union, part of budget and so on…What is not possible is to go out of the union but stay a full member of Euratom." (“Britain must leave EU nuclear body: Verhofstadt ‘” AFP, July 12,


Julian Jessop, chief economist, London-based Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA)

Not many people would have heard of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) until recently and even fewer will have had it in the front of their minds when voting on the UK’s membership of the EU. And yet the current furore over nuclear cooperation has the potential to cause a chain reaction that derails Brexit, or at least fundamentally alters its shape……… almost everyone – including other EU countries who benefit from nuclear trade with the UK and sharing of expertise – agrees that the UK’s continued participation in the activities of Euratom would be a good thing and in the interests of all parties.

(“Fallout from Euratom scare stories shouldn’t be allowed to derail Brexit,” 13 July

Lord Prior of Brampton told Lord Teverson in a written Parliamentary answer

on 25 July

“[BEIS] has had several discussions with officials from the United States on civil nuclear cooperation when the UK leaves Euratom, including a future Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the United States. Our aim is clear: we want to maintain continuity of our mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with Euratom and international partners.”


Euratom background material on Nuclear Energy

Safe nuclear power

The EU promotes the highest standards of nuclear safety across Europe and beyond.

The EU establishes requirements for safe long-term management of radioactive waste.

The EU seeks to protect people from the dangers of ionising radiation.

The EU plays an important role in the decommissioning of nuclear installations.

Nuclear safeguards ensure that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes.


Nuclear power plants generate almost 30% of the electricity produced in the EU. There are 130 nuclear reactors in operation in 14 EU countries.  Each EU country decides alone whether to include nuclear power in its energy mix or not. Nuclear power currently being produced is released by a process called nuclear fission. It involves the splitting of atoms using uranium to release energy.

The peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU is governed by the 1957 Euratom Treaty, which established the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). While Euratom is a separate legal entity from the EU, it is governed by the EU's institutions.

The European Commission deals with nuclear activities from three angles:

·         nuclear safety is about the safe operation of nuclear installations. It is complemented by radiation protection and radioactive waste management

·         nuclear safeguards are measures to ensure that nuclear materials are used only for the purposes declared by the users

·         nuclear security relates to the physical protection of nuclear material and installations against intentional malicious acts.

Nuclear safety

The EU promotes the highest safety standards for all types of civilian nuclear activity, including power generation, research, and medical use. In response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, a series of stress tests were carried out in 2011 and 2012 to measure the ability of EU nuclear installations to withstand natural disasters.

In July 2014, the EU amended its Nuclear Safety Directive from 2009, which establishes common safety rules for nuclear installations.

Radioactive waste and decommissioning

Radioactive waste results from nuclear activities such as electricity generation, medicine, and research. The EU's Directive for the Management of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel sets out rules for safely disposing of used radioactive materials.

The shutting down and decommissioning of a nuclear power plant at the end of its lifecycle is a long and expensive process. The 'Waste Directive' also requires the creation of EU country plans for financing the safe disposal of radioactive waste during decommissioning.

The EU has set up nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes to help Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Slovakia finance the safe decommissioning of old Soviet-type reactors.

Radiation protection

The EU has radiation protection legislation in place to protect human health against the dangers arising from ionising radiation. This includes the Basic Safety Standards, supplemented by a number of acts ensuring a high level of protection for the public, workers, and patients.

In addition, the EU requires EU countries to monitor radioactivity in the air, water, soil and foodstuffs. It also plays an important role in the international exchange of radiological information, in particular in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Nuclear Fusion

Nuclear fusion is currently in an experimental phase. It produces energy by fusing light atoms such as hydrogen at extremely elevated pressures and high temperatures. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is an experimental fusion reactor in the south of France aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion as a viable source of energy.

Proper use of nuclear materials – safeguards

The EU wants to ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted from their original intended use. Under the Euratom Treaty, nuclear safeguards were established to guarantee this. They oblige users to keep accurate records and make declarations to the European Commission. The Commission verifies these declarations and performs inspections.

Nuclear security

The physical protection of nuclear installations and radioactive materials is related to countries' security and defence policies and is mostly within their competence.

Nuclear fuel supply security

The Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) ensures a regular and diversified supply of nuclear fuels to EU users. In particular, the ESA recommends that EU facilities operating nuclear power plants maintain stocks of nuclear materials and cover their needs by entering into long-term contracts with a diverse range of suppliers. It also monitors the EU nuclear fuel market.


EURATOM  Related documents

·         Nuclear fuel cycle

Related legislation

·         Euratom Treaty


No comments:

Post a Comment