Documents considered by the Committee on 10 January 2018 Contents

2Status and outlook for investment in nuclear energy in the EU

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Document details

Commission Communication—Nuclear Illustrative Programme presented under Article 40 of the Euratom Treaty

Legal base


Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(38718), 9186/17, COM(17) 237

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

2.1Nuclear energy is part of the energy mix of half the EU Member States. This Communication provides an overview of investments in the EU for all steps in the nuclear lifecycle. It is intended to provide a basis for discussion about: the role of nuclear energy in achieving the EU’s energy objectives; the associated investments needs; the management of nuclear liabilities; and research investment including in non-power applications such as the production of medical radioisotopes.

2.2The Commission concludes that nuclear energy will remain an important component of the EU’s energy mix over the period until 2050. Nuclear reactors in Europe are ageing and significant investment is needed where Member States opt for a lifetime extension of some reactors and to support decommissioning and the long-term storage of nuclear waste as well as replacement of existing reactors and construction of new reactors. The total estimated investments in the nuclear fuel cycle between 2015 and 2050 are projected to be between €660 billion (£607 billion) and €770 billion (£708 billion). The Communication also states that the highest standards of safety, security, waste management and non-proliferation have to be ensured across the whole fuel cycle. Finally, continuous investment in research and development activities will be needed in order to maintain the EU’s global leadership and excellence in nuclear technology and safety.

2.3EU Member States collaborate on nuclear energy through the linked European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). When the UK signalled its intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 TFEU, it also signalled withdrawal from Euratom.

2.4The Minister for Energy and Industry (Richard Harrington) notes that no policy implications result from the document. The UK, he says, remains committed to new nuclear and will continue to operate a robust and effective regulatory regime across the whole fuel cycle. This work includes the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, introduced in Parliament on 11 October 2017.

2.5The UK’s commitment to nuclear energy was emphasised in the recent wide-ranging Clean Growth Strategy10 This reflected a number of the points made by the Commission in its Report, including the need for public investment to support future nuclear fuels, new nuclear manufacturing techniques, recycling and reprocessing, and advanced reactor design.

2.6The Minister notes that no policy implications arise from this document. We appreciate that the document is largely an inventory but it raises a number of issues which will be salient to the UK in the future, regardless of any future UK engagement in Euratom. As the UK seeks to develop a nuclear power policy outside the EU, we are surprised that the Minister can find no information within this Report with potential implications for future UK policy. We would urge the Government in defining new policies to take account of best practice—and lessons learned—in the EU and elsewhere. We would welcome confirmation from the Government that guidance documents such as this will indeed be used, or at the very least consulted, in the development of the UK’s post-Brexit nuclear energy policy, including investment, safety and research considerations. We were pleased to see that a number of the policies set out in the Government’s Green Growth Strategy do broadly correspond with the Commission’s observations.

2.7One of the Commission’s key observations is that the supply of medical radioisotopes is becoming more fragile and requires a more coordinated approach. This is an example of a topic on which we trust the Government is keen to develop its own policy. We address this question in the Chapter on Nuclear research and medical isotopes.

2.8Another area of focus by the Commission is nuclear safety. It draws attention to the Nuclear Safety Directive and to the well-established cooperation among nuclear safety authorities of EU Member States thanks to the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). We note that Norway and Switzerland have observer status in ENSREG. The Commission also refers to the European Nuclear Energy Forum, which supports dialogue between stakeholders, including civil society. While acknowledging that future arrangements on nuclear safety and other matters will form part of the withdrawal negotiations, we emphasise the need to consider not only the future regulatory framework but also arrangements for regulatory cooperation and for dialogue. We would welcome information on the Government’s approach to such arrangements post-Brexit.

2.9Turning to future arrangements in the immediate post-Brexit period, the Prime Minister indicated in her Florence speech that she would like there to be a post-Brexit implementation period of around two years. The framework for this, proposed the Prime Minister, would be the existing structure of EU rules and regulations, although we are aware that any arrangements are subject to negotiation with the EU. We would welcome confirmation that it is the Government’s negotiating objective that the framework of Euratom rules and regulations should continue to apply to the UK for the duration of an implementation period. Is it also the Government’s intention that the Nuclear Co-operation Agreements with third countries should be included within those rules and regulations to be applied during any implementation period, or should equivalent arrangements be agreed between the UK and those countries by March 2019?

2.10As regards UK representation during any implementation period, could the Minister confirm that the UK would no longer participate in any relevant decision-making or deliberations on the orientation of future policy, including the meetings of the Council’s Atomic Questions Working Party? To what extent does the Government consider that absence from that Working Party would have a substantive impact on the UK, assuming both that the UK would be applying Euratom rules and regulations during a withdrawal period and that the Government is successful in negotiating some form of future relationship with Euratom and associated research programmes?

2.11We retain the document under scrutiny and draw it to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. We would welcome a response to the issues raised by 2 February 2018.

Full details of the documents

Commission Communication—Nuclear Illustrative Programme presented under Article 40 of the Euratom Treaty: (38718), 9186/17, COM(17) 237.


2.12The Communication (known by its French acronym ‘PINC’) is a report on the status and outlook for investment in nuclear energy in the EU. It is published under Article 40 of the Euratom Treaty, which requires the Commission to periodically publish a nuclear illustrative programme. It is the first PINC published since 2008.

2.13According to the Commission, there are 129 nuclear power reactors in operation in 14 Member States, with an average age close to 30 years. New build projects are envisaged in ten Member States, with four reactors already under construction in Finland, France and Slovakia. Other projects in Finland, Hungary and the United Kingdom are under the licensing process, while projects in other Member States (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania) are at a preparatory stage. The United Kingdom, notes the Commission, has recently announced its intention to close all coal-fired power plants by 2025 and to fill the capacity gap mainly with new gas and nuclear power plants. Looking forward, the Commission expects the share of nuclear electricity in the EU to fall from its current level of 27% to around 20%.

2.14The Commission sets out the latest nuclear safety developments, drawing particular attention to the amended Nuclear Safety Directive, which has since been mirrored at the international level under pressure from the EU. Cooperation among nuclear safety authorities of EU Member States is now well established thanks to the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group. The European Nuclear Energy Forum supports dialogue between stakeholders, including civil society.

2.15The areas for required investment are set out. These include: the front-end of the fuel cycle (such as uranium ore exploration); new nuclear power stations; safety; long term operation of existing plants; and the back-end of the fuel cycle, such as waste management and decommissioning. The Commission points out, for example, that 90 nuclear power reactors had been shut down by January 2016 but only three had been completely decommissioned.

2.16The Commission goes on to consider non-power applications, noting that nuclear and radiation technologies have many applications in the medical sector, industry, agriculture and research. Radioisotopes are used to treat nine million European citizens each year, notably technetium-99m (Tc-99m). The Commission notes that the supply of medical radioisotopes is becoming more fragile and requires a more coordinated approach.

2.17Finally, the Commission considers the need for EU to maintain its technology leadership in the nuclear domain through further research and development activities. This should include, the Commission says, support for the development of fusion through the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 1 August 2017

2.18The Minister sets out the Government’s position in the following terms:

“There are no policy implications resulting from this report and Member States are not required to do anything in response. The UK remains committed to new nuclear and will continue to operate a robust and effective regulatory regime across the whole fuel cycle.”

Previous Committee Reports


12 January 2018