Britain’s exit from the European atomic treaty following Brexit could have “serious ramifications… severely inhibit nuclear trade and research and threaten power supplies,” MPs have warned.
The business, energy and industrial strategy committee says Britain’s nuclear industry could be at risk if the withdrawal from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) is not delayed, allowing time to secure contingency plans.
The committee warned that any transitional deal may have to last longer than the three years suggested by the EU Parliament.
“The impact of Brexit on Euratom has not been thought through,” said committee chair Iain Wright.
“The government has failed to consider the potentially severe ramifications of its Brexit objectives for the nuclear industry.
“Ministers must act as urgently as possible. The repercussions of failing to do so are huge.
“The continued operations of the UK nuclear industry are at risk,” Wright added.
As Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to guarantee the UK’s commitment to Euratom, the government should now strive to reverse general “uncertainty” over the industry’s future, he said.
“The prime minister has made it politically unfeasible to remain in Euratom long term.
“The government now has a responsibility to end the uncertainty hanging over the industry and ensure robust and stable arrangements to protect trade, boost research and development, and ensure safeguarding of the highest level,” Wright said.
The report follows a warning from nuclear energy lawyers who claim that leaving Euratom without an alternative deal may bring nuclear trade to a halt, which will in turn lead to Britain’s reactors switching off.
A government adviser has already warned the industry would be “crippled” if no new deals are implemented within two years.
Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB trade union, said the warning proves the government has failed to implement “a coherent energy policy.”
“In a world outside of the European Union, energy self-sufficiency is common sense and nuclear, alongside gas, will be fundamental in that reliable mix,” he said.
“Decisive action must take place now. The electorate will not forgive politicians of any political party who fail in their duty to maintain the electricity supply.”
MPs are also concerned Brexit will distract the government from implementing policies to reduce carbon emissions.
The committee’s report advises the UK to remain part of the internal energy market and maintain its membership of the emissions trading system until at least 2020.
“We believe that membership of the internal energy market has been beneficial to UK and EU consumers and has helped provide flexibility and certainty to the supply of energy,” MPs said.
“While there are undoubtedly weaknesses in the operation of some EU policies on energy and climate change, notably the EU emissions trading system, the secretary of state, Greg Clark, acknowledged that cooperation with EU partners was generally mutually beneficial.”