This EU document is politically important because:
1.1Nuclear Cooperation Agreements (NCAs) give legal underpinning to civil nuclear cooperation and provide key non-proliferation assurances, including in respect of nuclear safeguards, and a framework for nuclear trade. The UK and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)—legally separate from the EU but comprising all of the EU Member States and no other countries—have agreed a NCA, which is separate from the wider UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). There is, however, a link between the two Agreements as the TCA governs UK participation in specific nuclear research programmes (i.e. the Euratom Research and Training Programme and “Fusion for Energy”—the European Joint Undertaking for the ITER fusion project).
1.2The UK-Euratom NCA covers the following:
1.3A Joint Committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the Agreement.
1.4On research cooperation, the NCA notes that such cooperation may include UK participation in Euratom’s research and training programmes (Euratom R&T), and membership of Fusion for Energy (F4E) which is the Euratom body responsible for delivering Euratom’s contribution to the international ITER fusion project. Detailed arrangements were outlined in the separate TCA.
1.5The TCA sets out the terms for the UK’s participation in various Union programmes and activities, including those relating to cooperation on nuclear research and development. These terms provide for the UK to make a fair and appropriate financial contribution towards the relevant programmes and activities, fair treatment of UK participants, balanced provisions to ensure the sound financial management of funds, and appropriate governance arrangements. The TCA’s Protocol on UK participation in Union programmes and activities (once adopted by a Specialised Committee under the TCA) will mean that the UK shall participate as an associated country in all parts of the Euratom R&T programme and as a member of F4E for the next multiannual financial framework 2021–2027.
1.6In her , the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth (Rt Hon. Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP) says that the UK-Euratom NCA sends a clear message to the wider international community, the nuclear sector, and the public that both parties are fully committed to cooperation on civil nuclear, including safeguards, safety, and security. It provides a framework for trade in nuclear materials and technology and, while trade would have been possible without the NCA, the Minister says that it would have been more-time consuming and complex.
1.7The Minister goes on to note that the TCA’s provisions on nuclear research ensure that UK researchers and UK companies will continue to have full access to funding and commercial opportunities under Euratom R&T and F4E. This includes the ability for the UK to attend and participate in governance boards and influence decision-making in the UK interest. This agreement also secures full access to ITER, which the Minister describes as “one of the largest international science collaborations in the world”. Remaining part of ITER through F4E, she says, means the UK can access scientific outputs crucial for supporting the development of fusion energy, as well as substantial commercial opportunities.
1.8We welcome the NCA between Euratom and the UK, which not only places cooperation on a secure footing but also ensures continued UK involvement in ITER, which we were aware was an important objective for the Government.
1.9We are separately scrutinising the broader Trade and Cooperation Agreement, including the provisions on UK participation in EU programmes and will monitor the financial and governance aspects of that participation closely.
1.10We report the document to the House and draw it to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, which may wish to pursue the detail of the Agreement, including scrutiny of the Joint Committee.
1 Recommendation for a COUNCIL DECISION approving the conclusion, by the European Commission, of the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the European Atomic Energy Community for Cooperation on the Safe and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and the conclusion, by the European Commission, on behalf of the European Atomic Energy Community, of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part; Council and COM number ; Legal base: Article 101, Euratom; Department: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Devolved Administrations: Not consulted; ESC number: 41766.
2 Article 18 of the NCA confirms that it is not a “supplementing agreement” to the TCA.
3 Launched in 2005 and now involving seven global partners (Euratom, US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea and India), ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is a project to build and operate an experimental facility to demonstrate the scientific viability of fusion as a future sustainable energy source.