Australian news, and some related international items

Britain’s nuclear trade will grind to a halt, as UK leaves European Union and its nuclear regulatory agency

The consensus is clear: there is no upside to a nuclear Brexit, Guardian, Clare Moody, 21 Nov 17,  This government must heed the warnings – leaving the treaty on nuclear energy, Cabinet resignations, a government with no majority in the Commons, a make-or break-budget for the chancellor and a fast-approaching Brexit negotiating deadline means it is easy for issues to slip out of the public consciousness. Against this backdrop, Euratom and the UK’s future nuclear safeguarding regime risk being forgotten.

As the nuclear safeguards bill – one of the “Brexit bills” announced in the Queen’s speech – makes its way through the parliamentary process, nuclear experts were called to present evidence to MPs. The message from experts is unequivocal – there is no upside to the UK leaving the Euratom treaty.

Be it Prospect, the trade union representing civil nuclear experts, EDF Energy, or the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), the sector is united in its message to the government: leaving Euratom is complicated, and the potential consequences could be disastrous for our country. Rupert Cowen, a nuclear expert at Prospect Law, claims the UK is “sleepwalking” to disaster: “If we do not get this right, business stops … no nuclear trade will be able to continue.”

This is not scaremongering. Analysis of the facts shows just how much is at risk by leaving Euratom, and how complex this process is, given the government’s unnecessary, self-imposed deadline. This government must start listening.

Euratom, among other things, provides safeguarding inspections for all civil nuclear sites in the UK. Inspectors are employed by Euratom and many are EU nationals. It takes five years to train a nuclear inspector and there is currently a limited pool of qualified inspectors from which to recruit. As Sue Ferns, deputy general secretary of Prospect, said in her evidence to the nuclear safeguards bill committee, “this is a highly skilled, very specialist area, which is why there is such a premium on this source of labour” and this is why we must question the wisdom of the government’s actions so far.

The government plans for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to take over the role that Euratom currently carries out, but the ONR and the NIA have made clear that new arrangements will not be in place by the time we are due to leave Euratom in March 2019. Asked by MPs whether new arrangements could be put in place within the timeframe, Dame Sue Ion, chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, said: “I do not think it is possible.”

Should the UK fail to have its safeguarding regime in place by March 2019, nuclear trade would halt, as well as cross-nation technology sharing that some of our nuclear power stations rely on to function. Again, this is not an exaggeration of the problem, or political point-scoring. Put simply, if we don’t have our safeguarding regime in place, our nuclear industry will face major, potentially dangerous, disruptions……..

November 22, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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