Britain Quits Euratom
New power stations in doubt after Brexit change
EDF has warned that the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset could also face renewed problems ALAMY
The new wave of British nuclear power stations was in jeopardy after the government announced it would pull out of a Europe-wide nuclear co-operation organisation.
Ministers sneaked out the news that the UK would leave the European Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom, within the notes accompanying the bill published yesterday to trigger Article 50, the process for leaving the European Union.
Euratom was established through a 1957 treaty and plays a crucial role in ensuring compliance with international nuclear safeguards as well as establishing a European market for nuclear goods and services.
The decision to announce Britain’s planned exit from Euratom yesterday caught the nuclear industry by surprise and caused concern in parts of government. Some ministers wanted to delay the announcement because of the level of sensitivity.
The government said it had decided to leave Euratom because it is “uniquely legally joined” to the EU and continued membership would mean oversight by the European Court of Justice, one of Theresa May’s red lines on Brexit.
However, withdrawal could cause “major disruption” according to the Nuclear Industry Association and a failure to sort out new arrangements before Brexit could have “potentially serious consequences for both existing generation and nuclear new build projects”, worth tens of billions of pounds.
It is understood that Japanese-led ventures Horizon and Nugen, which are developing plans for reactors on Anglesey and in Cumbria respectively, could face particular problems because their plans involve co-operation with US nuclear companies.
The US currently has an agreement with Euratom but not with the UK bilaterally. US law prohibits nuclear co-operation without an agreement.
The Hinkley Point C station in Somerset could also face renewed problems. EDF, the French state-controlled developer, warned this week that Brexit could increase “the costs of essential new infrastructure developments and could delay their delivery”.