The future of Britain’s nuclear reactors, decommissioning activities and fuel supplies could be at risk if the UK leaves a Europe-wide nuclear co-operation body without transitional arrangements.
The warning from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) comes as ministers previously said the government intends to leave Euratom as part of Brexit.
It is calling on the government to “urgently” develop a suitable transitional framework to replace Euratom before leaving the EU.
Established in 1957, the treaty enables a single market of goods and services for nuclear projects as well as trade deals.
The engineers also stress the need for the UK to create new Nuclear Co-operation Agreements to enable new trade deals with both EU and non-EU countries.
Their report suggests enabling innovative commercial opportunities to sell nuclear services and waste treatment technology to global partners through the National Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at IMechE and lead author of the report said: “The UK’s departure from Euratom must not be seen as an after-thought to leaving the EU. Without suitable transitional arrangements, the UK runs the risk of not being able to access the markets and skills that enable the construction of new nuclear power plants and existing power stations may also potentially be unable to access fuel.
“Making these transitional arrangements will be difficult, particularly given the short time-scale but if done correctly, could present the UK with opportunities to speed up the process of developing new nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities, boost UK nuclear skills as well as open up the UK to more international trade deals.”
The government said leaving Euratom is the result of Brexit “as they are uniquely legally joined”.
A spokesperson added: “The UK supports Euratom and will want to see continuity of co-operation and standards. We remain absolutely committed to the highest standards of nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry.
“Our aim is clear: we want to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with the EU.”