Documents considered by the Committee on 21 February 2018 Contents

8Status and outlook for investment in nuclear energy in the EU

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; 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 + ADD 1, COM(17) 237

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

8.1Nuclear energy is part of the energy mix of half of the EU Member States. The Commission’s Communication provided an overview of investments in the EU for all steps of the nuclear lifecycle. EU 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.

8.2At its meeting of 10 January 2018, the Committee raised a number of issues relating to the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom. The Minister for Business and Industry (Richard Harrington) has responded to the Committee, confirming the Government’s desire to maintain close and effective cooperation with Euratom and to participate in advisory organisations such as the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). On transition, he confirms that it would (subject to the outcome of negotiations) cover Euratom. The Minister reports that significant progress has been made on maintaining continuity of co-operation with third countries through Nuclear Co-operation Agreements with the US, Canada, Japan and Australia. The Government will be discussing the approach to Euratom Nuclear Co-operation Agreements during transition with the EU and the respective third countries.

8.3We welcome the Minister’s confirmation that transition will extend to Euratom and that the Government is actively working to ensure continuity of co-operation with third countries during transition and beyond. On transition specifically, we note that the terms of the Commission’s draft legal text122 would bind the UK to obligations stemming from EU agreements with third countries. This would not, however, have reciprocal effect on the third countries and so we are pleased to note that the UK will be engaging with both the EU and respective third countries on Euratom Nuclear Co-operation Agreements during transition.

8.4We note that the Minister does not comment on continued UK participation in relevant decision-making or deliberations on the orientation of future policy, including the Council’s Atomic Questions Working Party, and the implications of non-participation. The draft legal text is unclear whether exceptional UK attendance at various meetings would extend to meetings of Council Working Parties.

8.5We clear this document from scrutiny and will pursue the outstanding matters in our wider work on transition and the future relationship as the issues apply beyond this policy area. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

Full details of the documents

Commission Communication—Nuclear Illustrative Programme presented under Article 40 of the Euratom Treaty: (38718), 9186/17 + ADD 1, COM(17) 237.


8.6The Commission concluded in its Communication that nuclear energy will remain an important component of the EU’s energy mix over the period until 2050. 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).123 Full details of, and background to, the Communication were set out in our report of 10 January 2018.124

8.7In his original Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister (Richard Harrington) noted that no policy implications result from the document. The UK, he said, remains committed to new nuclear and will continue to operate a robust and effective regulatory regime across the whole fuel cycle.

8.8At its meeting of 10 January, the Committee sought information on:

The Minister’s letter of 2 February 2018

8.9The Minister is clear that the Government considers continuity of the “mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with Euratom and international partners” to be a high priority matter following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

8.10On the Government’s approach to regulatory cooperation/framework arrangements post-Brexit, the Minister says:

“The Government recognises the importance of continuing our long-standing and mutually beneficial engagement with relevant regulatory organisations and advisory bodies set up under Euratom auspices as well as non-Euratom organisations, to further common understanding, exchanges of information and cooperation in areas such as nuclear safety.

“This intention is set out in the Government’s Written Ministerial Statement of 11 January 2018 on Euratom where it is stated that the UK wishes, through negotiation with the European Commission, to maintain close and effective cooperation with Euratom on nuclear safety among other things. The Government is exploring potential ways of continuing such engagement through appropriate mechanisms, noting that there are precedents for non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland to participate in advisory organisations like ENSREG, the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group.”

8.11On arrangements for the implementation period, the Minister adds:

“Both the UK and the rest of the EU recognise that we will need time and preparations to implement smoothly many of the detailed arrangements that will underpin our new partnership. The Prime Minister in September 2017 proposed a time-limited period for implementation which would cover the EU and Euratom. The exact nature of the period will be subject to forthcoming negotiations. We want our departure from the EU to be as smooth as possible, including on nuclear issues.

“Government also intends to maintain continuity of cooperation with its international partners and is working to ensure arrangements are in place to deliver this. As such, UK officials have been engaging with four key international partners, the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia, to ensure we have the essential Nuclear Cooperation Agreements in place to ensure uninterrupted cooperation and trade in the civil nuclear sector. These discussions are progressing well and significant progress has been made.

“Currently, the UK’s arrangements with these and other international partners on civil nuclear matters are mainly reliant on Euratom Nuclear Co-operation Agreements, in some cases alongside existing bilateral UK ones. The UK Government will be discussing the approach to these agreements during the implementation period with the EU and with third country partners. Our priority is to ensure all the necessary arrangements and agreements are in place to guarantee continuity for the nuclear sector, whatever the outcome of negotiations and whatever the length and nature of any implementation period.”

Previous Committee Reports

Eighth Report HC 301–viii (2017–19), chapter 2 (10 January 2018).

123 €1 = £0.88723

124 Eighth Report HC 301–viii (2017–19), chapter 2 (10 January 2018).

23 February 2018