The UK’s decision to exit the European Union might lead to a loss of up to 66,000 people working in the nuclear power industry.
Brexit Expected to Cause a Global Nuclear Fuel Problem
According to industry officials in the nuclear power sector, by the UK quitting the European Union, the nuclear power sector risks massive disruption in terms of human resources, and production and distribution of atomic fuel globally.
In leaving the EU, the UK government will essentially quit the Eurotom, the EU’s nuclear safety and research organization that was founded 60 years ago.
This exit will require the UK to spend many years rewriting the rules and agreements the country will need to trade radioactive content with other countries.
Andreas Persbo, the executive director of the VERTIC center based in London said, “The most difficult part will be to guarantee continued assurance of supply.” VERTIC center is the body in charge of advising the governments in the EU on nuclear policy issues.
He added, “Changes in the UK system will have an impact on several bilateral nuclear supply agreements.”
In the same way that London has become a global financial center, those working in the nuclear sector have increasingly made the UK a hub from which the distribution of atomic material is dependent.
Britain’s membership in Euratom has allowed the country to become a leading manufacturing destination of reactor fuel and nuclear research projects led by the EU. As such, exiting Euratom will require the nuclear sector in the region to develop new ways of conducting business, which is a complex process.
Presently, the number of people working in nuclear in Britain amounts to 65,791 based on figures from the UK Nuclear Industry Association.
The main function of Euratom is enforcing measures that protect the use of nuclear fuel, ensuring it is not used to manufacture weapons. Once the UK leaves the EU, it will lose this function.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary has said that the International Atomic Energy Agency would be in charge of nuclear inspections as it does for other countries in the world. Even then, the UK would have to form a new agreement with the Agency.
Billions of pounds of investments in jeopardy
The World Nuclear Association and the Nuclear Industry Association have cautioned against a complete pull out from Euratom, which could jeopardize billions of pounds of investments and put thousands of jobs at risk.
In a statement, the union of nuclear industry workers said that leaving the Euratom prematurely could significantly delay the Hinkley Point C reactor project worth $22 billion.
The UK would need to form new agreements with non-EU countries such as the US, Japan, Canada and Australia to ensure that workers in the UK’s nuclear industry keep their jobs after leaving Euratom.
Exiting Euratom could also have negative implications for British engineers and scientists involved in advanced nuclear technology projects.