Friday, 10 November 2017

Nuclear Safeguards in UK and Brexit

This article was published on line at nuClear News (No.101 November 2017) on 9 November ( I think it merits wider readership, so have posted it here:

The government cannot guarantee Britain will have enough nuclear inspectors when it leaves the EU. The Office of Nuclear Regulation has recruited four new safeguards inspectors but says it needs more time to fill the specialised roles. Nuclear minister Richard Harrington said there was "plenty of time" to recruit the staff needed. But he stopped short of offering a firm guarantee. The government has stressed that nuclear safeguards - the processes by which the UK shows its civil nuclear material is not diverted into weapons programmes - are different from nuclear safety - the prevention of nuclear accidents. Mr Harrington said the UK was committed to leaving Euratom in March 2019. (1)

Industry figures have warned about significant disruption to energy production in the UK if there is not a new inspection regime ready to go to, to replace the one currently overseen by Euratom.

Dr Mina Golshan gave evidence on behalf of the Office for Nuclear Regulation to the Safeguards Bill Committee on 31st October 2017. (2) Dr Golshan completely ducked addressing the most important aspect of the bill, according to nuclear security expert Dr David Lowry. It is- not the operational technicalities which concern Lowry, but the diplomatic acceptability of a nation state asserting that it will replace an independent international safeguards verification regime with a self verified regime, albeit one that intends to be populated by the appropriate expertise from a current recruitment drive.

Dr Golshan also overlooked the fact the current trilateral safeguards agreement (UK-EURATOM-IAEA) has an opt out of safeguards application to fissile material, under its article 14, if the Government so decides; and this has actually been done over 600 times since September 1978, when the trilateral safeguards agreement came into force. Foreign states regard this as UK 'do-it-yourself' nuclear proliferation on an industrial scale, as comments at successive NPT review conferences attest, but ministers routinely ignore.

Indeed, the ONR itself now publishes annual data on such withdrawals on its web site,


See: Nuclear Safeguards Bill 2017-19 – Library briefing,


1.       BBC 2nd Nov 2017



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