UK Debates Plans for Euratom Exit

A vote by the House of Lords set back UK efforts to replace nuclear arrangements provided by a treaty from which London will withdraw as part of Brexit. The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union includes withdrawing from Euratom, a body established by a 1957 treaty to coordinate civil nuclear research and power and conduct safeguards.

The UK will need to reach new bilateral cooperation agreements and revise its nuclear safeguards to replace Euratom measures by March 2019. (See ACT, July/August 2017.) However, the House of Lords on March 20 rejected the government’s plan by a 265-194 vote, with members expressing concern that it did not provide enough assurance that the importation of nuclear materials for civilian applications would not be interrupted.

A Jan. 29 report from a House of Lords subcommittee concluded that failure to replace the Euratom provisions could “result in the UK being unable to import nuclear materials and have severe consequences for the UK's energy security.” The report recommended that the government prioritize reaching a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is necessary for new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements. The report emphasized the importance of reaching new agreements with Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States to ensure that nuclear supply chains can be maintained.

Members also raised the issue of continued UK participation in research and development projects supported by Euratom and recommended that the government look into ensuring the continued viability of research projects in the UK financed in part by Euratom.—KELSEY DAVENPORT