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What next for UK nuclear? Gaining clarity on the UK leaving Euratom

Written by Michael Zdanowski, Head of Energy at Madano.

This week Madano brought together leading figures from across the nuclear industry to discuss the UK government’s decision to leave Euratom as part of exiting the EU. 

Speakers included Dr Tim Stone CBE, Chairman of Nuclear Risk Insurers and Non-executive Director of the European Investment Bank, Fiona Rayment OBE, Director Government Programmes at the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Gordon Waddington, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Research Accelerator and former President of Rolls Royce Civil Nuclear.

From the discussion, it was obvious that leaving Euratom poses a number of major threats to the UK civil nuclear industry, in areas such as:

  • The transfer of nuclear fuel and material for energy production and for use in medical treatments
  • The transfer of critical components that enable the UK’s nuclear reactors to remain in operation and new reactors to be built
  • Future inward investment into the UK’s nuclear industry not just from the EU but globally
  • Attracting and retaining the best talent in the nuclear industry
  • The potential loss of the Joint Energy Torus (JET) nuclear fusion project in Culham
  • Research and development across the sector and supply chains
  • The damage done to the channels of collaboration between the UK and Europe in nuclear, carefully built over many decades

Attendees pointed to the fact that leaving Euratom could be easily prevented by the UK Government shifting its commitment to leaving the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). 

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There was broad agreement in the room that effective communication with government is crucial and that the nuclear industry must speak with a single, consistent voice. This needs to happen quickly to safeguard the industry’s interests, given the volatile political landscape.

The feeling in the room was that, at present, it is not doing enough.

Critically, it was noted that in communicating the challenge of leaving Euratom, the UK nuclear industry should talk more forcefully about the medical context – how the Treaty enables the transfer of isotopes for diagnoses and radiotherapy, directly contributing to the health of the UK population. 

Attendees in the room agreed that this message is a valuable reminder that the industry has to deliver more nuanced and emotive messages to cut through a congested media space, very much focused on the initial UK-EU negotiations.

This event is the first in a number of events that Madano is running on UK energy.