In this Report we consider four separate documents published by the European Commission relating to the work of the European Atomic Energy Community and specifically covering:
Details of each document are set out in the respective Chapters of this Report. In summary, we consider that they raise important issues in relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Specifically, these are:
The European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom, was established in 1952 as part of what eventually became the European Union. The UK acceded to Euratom on 1 January 1973 at the same time as it joined the then European Economic Community. All 28 EU Member States are members of Euratom. Switzerland and Ukraine have association arrangements with research aspects of Euratom.
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 UK’s Culham Centre of Fusion Energy. Euratom also has a number of nuclear co-operation agreements (NCAs) with third countries.
In her letter of 29 March 2017 notifying the EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU under the terms of Article 50 TFEU, the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK would also withdraw from Euratom. The UK’s future relationship with Euratom has emerged as a key issue in the negotiations between the UK and the EU on EU withdrawal.
In its 13 July position paper on “Nuclear materials and safeguards issues”, the Government indicated a preference for continued close cooperation with Euratom. A particular preference for continued alignment in nuclear research, including ITER, was set out in the Government’s future partnership paper on science and innovation.
On 11 October, the Government introduced a Nuclear Safeguards Bill in order to establish a UK nuclear safeguards regime as the UK leaves Euratom. The Bill will give the Office for Nuclear Regulation powers to take on the role and responsibilities required to meet the UK’s international safeguards, and nuclear non-proliferation, obligations.
As set out in the joint EU-UK report on phase one of the withdrawal negotiations, a number of elements relating to Euratom withdrawal have been agreed. These include agreement that the UK will be responsible for international nuclear safeguards in the UK and is committed to a future regime that provides coverage and effectiveness equivalent to existing Euratom arrangements. Both sides have also agreed the principles of ownership for special fissile material (save for material held in the UK by EU27 entities) and the principles governing responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste.
In a separate paper on the negotiations, the Commission further clarified the state of negotiations on Euratom aspects:
“Regarding Special Fissile Material held in the United Kingdom by EU27 undertakings, the United Kingdom has not yet accepted that Euratom rights should continue (e.g. right to approve future sale or transfer of these materials). Both sides agree that ultimate responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste remains with the State where it was produced, in line with international conventions and European Atomic Energy Community legislation. Agreement appears to be in sight but must be finalised in regard to the transfer to the United Kingdom of the equipment currently used by Euratom for the purpose of implementing safeguards. Finally, disagreement persists regarding the validity of the approvals of exports from the Union to the United Kingdom after withdrawal.”
The post-Brexit relationship between the UK and Euratom will be tackled during the second phase of the withdrawal negotiations. In advance of that the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee have published a Report on “Leaving the EU: implications for the civil nuclear sector”. We consequently draw the various chapters of this Report to the attention of that Committee. The chapter on nuclear research and medical isotopes is also drawn to the attention of the Health Committee.
1 HM Government, on Nuclear materials and safeguards issues.
2 HM Government, on Collaboration on science and innovation.
3 from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.
4 Commission Communication on the state of progress of the negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.
5 Leaving the EU: implications for the civil nuclear sector, Second Report of Session 2017–19, HC-378 ().
12 January 2018