A Commons Library briefing paper on EURATOM, the European Atomic Energy CommunityJump to full report >>
The European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom, was established in the 1950s as part of the creation of the European Community. The UK became a member of both on 1 January 1973. Euratom provides the basis for the regulation of civilian nuclear activity, implements a system of safeguards to control the use of nuclear materials, controls the supply of fissile materials within EU member states and funds leading international research such as the Culham Centre of Fusion Energy.
The Government have said that Euratom and the EU are “uniquely legally joined” such that “triggering Article 50 therefore also entails giving notice to leave Euratom”. The legal basis of this point is debated.
Leaving Euratom has the potential to impact the UK’s current nuclear operations, including fuel supply, waste management, cooperation with other nuclear states, and research. Industry has warned of a “cliff edge” exit that could cause “major disruption to business across the whole nuclear fuel cycle.” The UK will need to take on a number of measures to leave Euratom smoothly and some are concerned that the timetable for achieving these measures is ambitious.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee have recommended delaying the departure from Euratom to give the nuclear industry time to set up alternative arrangements.
The Queen’s Speech contained a Nuclear Safeguards Bill to give the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation powers to take on the role and responsibilities of Euratom, required to meet international safeguards, and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
Euratom will continue regulating the UK nuclear industry until the exit from the EU. The UK hosts significant nuclear research work and current funding, such as that for the Culham Centre, will continue until 2018. Beyond that point it is unclear what the impacts of withdrawing from Euratom will be on nuclear regulation and research in the UK.