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Leaving the EU: Nuclear Energy Policy

Volume 654: debated on Thursday 14 February 2019

The Government continue to make progress in putting in place all the necessary measures to ensure that the UK can operate as an independent and responsible nuclear state upon the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom and the European Union.

The UK has now concluded all replacement international agreements required to ensure continuity for civil nuclear trade following exit day. These include new nuclear co-operation agreements (NCAs) with Australia, Canada and the US, and voluntary offer agreement and additional protocol safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). All of these have passed in Parliament on 19 December.

In addition to the new bilateral NCAs described above, the UK has an existing bilateral NCA with Japan which has been in place since 1998. This agreement will remain in force following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The UK and Japan are holding formal negotiations to put in place arrangements to reflect the UK’s future safeguards arrangements, with both sides confident that appropriate arrangements will be in place for March 2019 if required.

Significant progress has been made in the setting up of a domestic nuclear safeguards regime. Government’s new domestic safeguards regulations are now on track to commence on exit day, having been debated and passed by both Houses of Parliament as of 22 January 2019.

In addition, the state system of accounting for and control of nuclear material (SSAC) has commenced parallel running alongside Euratom, processing and checking reports received from industry through the safeguards information management and reporting system (SIMRS) IT system and producing the decorations required to enable the UK to meet its international obligations. This will provide the opportunity to identify and make any necessary adjustments before 29 March 2019.

Working closely with industry, Government have been putting in place measures to address the issues that may affect the civil nuclear sector in any exit scenario. This includes laying all the necessary statutory instruments (SIs) required for any exit scenario, to minimise civil nuclear business disruption and ensure health and safety standards remain robust. The SIs will also ensure that no inoperabilities are retained in domestic law following the UK’s departure from the Euratom treaty.

Today I will be depositing a report in the Libraries of both Houses that sets out further details on the overall progress on the Government’s implementation of their Euratom exit strategy, including EU negotiations, domestic operational readiness, legislation and international agreements. The report covers the three-month reporting period from 26 September to 26 December and is the second statutory report under section 3(4) of the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018. The next report on Euratom exit progress is due to be deposited after the start of May 2019.