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Nuclear Safeguards Bill 2017-19

Published Friday, November 3, 2017

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill 2017-19 was presented to Parliament on 11 October 2017 and makes provision for nuclear safeguards after the UK leaves Euratom. This Briefing Paper discusses the background to and content of the Bill. The Nuclear Safeguards Bill passed Second Reading on 16 October 2017.

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Nuclear safeguards are measures to verify that countries comply with their international obligations not to use nuclear materials for nuclear weapons.

Safeguards were introduced as part of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons where the nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) undertook not to transfer nuclear weapons or support manufacture or acquisition of weapons by non‐nuclear weapon states. As a result, non-nuclear weapons states undertook to have international monitoring of their nuclear material by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and nuclear weapons states voluntarily accepted the same monitoring.

The UK joined the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1973. Since then, the UK’s agreements for safeguard monitoring with the IAEA have been fundamentally underpinned by the UK’s membership of Euratom. One of Euratom’s roles is to implement safeguards on nuclear material across Euratom member states.

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 16 March 2017. On 29 March 2017 the Prime Minister gave notification of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and from Euratom under section 1(1) of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill 2017-19 (referred to in this paper as ‘the Bill’) was presented to Parliament on 11 October 2017 and makes provision for nuclear safeguards after the UK leaves Euratom.

This Bill would allow the Government to make regulations for, and implement international agreements in relation to, nuclear safeguarding. This is required once the UK leaves Euratom. However, the Bill does not set out what the regulations will look like, but does include a duty to consult at least the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation. The new regulations once introduced will initially be subject to the affirmative procedure in both Houses, but later amendments will not, unless they amend legislation already specified in the Bill or Energy Act 2013. The Act extends to the whole of the UK.

The Bill does not cover other aspects of the UK’s relationship with Euratom, such as research funding.

This Briefing Paper discusses the background to the Bill, the content of the Bill, and contains some comment on the Bill. The Bill passed Second Reading on 16 October 2017.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8107

Author: Suzanna Hinson

Topics: Arms control, Energy, EU law and treaties, International organisations, International politics and government

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