Concerns over the future of nuclear safety

Letter to UK Government on future relationship of UK with Euratom. 

The Scottish Government has reiterated its call for the UK to remain as a member of European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). 

The UK Government must urgently confirm its future plans for the safe transfer of radioactive materials and technologies that will affect all parts of the UK, Scotland’s Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has said.

In a letter to the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ms Cunningham stated Scotland’s preference to remain as full members of the Euratom and if that is not possible, for the UK to seek associate membership. She also voiced her concerns at the lack of consultation and clarity around proposals to withdraw from Euratom through the Brexit process.  

Euratom was founded in 1957 to foster cooperation in the development of nuclear energy and ensures high standards of protection for workers and the public from nuclear power, decommissioning, spent fuel and radioactive substances.

Roseanna Cunningham said: 

In light of today’s debate in Westminster Hall, I would like to reinforce the Scottish Government’s position with respect to our future relationship with Euratom. In February, I wrote to Jesse Norman expressing my concerns about the UK Government’s intention to leave Euratom, and the lack of consultation with the Scottish Government.

As you will be aware, nuclear safeguards and safety are reserved and the regulation of radioactive waste and emissions is devolved. The future international arrangements for cooperation on research and for the transfer of radioactive materials and technologies will affect all parts of the UK.  Amongst those affected will be nuclear operators, the users of radioactive materials including in the health service, and supply chain industries across the UK. These different aspects cannot be considered in isolation in determining our future relationship with Euratom and other countries, and our international obligations under the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Scottish Government’s preference is for membership of Euratom to continue.  If this is not possible, as a result of the UK Government’s negotiations on taking the UK out of the EU, then we would favour a form of associate membership of Euratom that maintains close joint arrangements on the widest range of issues, including external assurance and inspection.

As the arrangements for the future affect devolved areas, it is crucial that the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations are fully involved in discussions about the options for our future relationship with Euratom, and any replacement arrangements that are needed.  Although the UK Government is focusing first on some of the key reserved areas, such as nuclear safeguarding, this will set the pattern for the full range of policy areas so we need to be working together on the future shape of arrangements from the outset. Whatever future arrangements are put in place, I would like a guarantee that Scotland will not lose any of the devolved competence that we have over radioactive substances regulation, including waste and emissions.  

As you will be aware, the Scottish Government has made clear it will not grant planning consent to any forthcoming proposal to build new nuclear power plants in Scotland under current technologies, though it recognises that lifetime extensions for the pre-existing operational power stations could help maintain security of supply while the transition to renewable and alternative thermal generation takes place. We are committed to the safe clean-up of the nuclear legacy in Scotland, including through our Higher Activity Waste Policy for safe near surface management of these wastes.

I am copying this letter to Richard Harrington MP, Lesley Griffiths AM, David Sterling, Interim Head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland, Paul Wheelhouse MSP and Michael Russell MSP.




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