NuGen welcomes PM 'commitment' to Moorside

16 February 2017

NuGeneration has welcomed the British prime minister's comments yesterday about the importance of building a new nuclear power plant in West Cumbria, while the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has said the UK's plan to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) as part of Brexit could threaten new nuclear reactor projects.

NuGen, which is the UK joint venture between Japan's Toshiba Corp and France's Engie, said on 14 February that Toshiba is committed to Moorside despite announcing it would reduce its exposure to reactor construction projects outside Japan. NuGen plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at the site in West Cumbria, using AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse.

NuGen CEO, Tom Samson, said: "The comments by the prime minister further demonstrate the UK's commitment to nuclear new build and recognise the importance of the Moorside project and the vital role nuclear, and NuGen, have to play. NuGen remains committed to developing and delivering the next generation of nuclear power in the UK. The strong support of the UK government strengthens our investment case for safe, reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy using proven technology. NuGen has been working with the government to ensure Moorside will feature as a vital part of the UK’s future energy mix and we will continue to collaborate with the government as we address the challenges and move the project forward."

Prime Minister Theresa May was questioned about Moorside during her visit yesterday to Bootle, ahead of the Copeland by-election taking place next week.

May, whose comments were broadcast on national television, said: "The consortium involved in Moorside has been absolutely clear. They have reconfirmed their commitment to Moorside. The Business Secretary Greg Clark has spoken to NuGen and Toshiba in the last few days and, in fact, over the last six months, he has made three visits to Japan, working with the government there and businesses there about their investment here in the UK."

The by-election in the seat of Copeland, in which the Sellafield site is located, was triggered by the resignation in December of Jamie Reed as a member of parliament for the UK's Labour Party. Reed resigned to become head of development and community relations at Sellafield Ltd. In January, May's Conservative Party announced its candidate for the Copeland seat - Trudy Harrison, who worked as a technical clerk for Sellafield Ltd for five years until 1998 and whose husband Keith is a welder working in the nuclear industry. Labour has chosen Gill Troughton, a councillor and former doctor and ambulance driver, as its candidate.

May said: "We recognise - and Trudy Harrison, our candidate here in Copeland, has made very clear to me - the importance of Moorside and the importance of the nuclear industry."

Planning for Euratom exit

The government's plan to leave the European Union, and consequently Euratom could threaten plans to build new nuclear reactors and decommissioning activities, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers says in a report it published today. The plan could also jeopardise energy security due to the impact on nuclear fuel supplies, said the London-based organisation, which has more than 115,000 members in over 140 countries.

The report, entitled Leaving the EU: the Euratom Treaty, says the government must "urgently develop a suitable transitional framework" before leaving the EU. There is the need, it says, for the UK to create new nuclear cooperation agreements (NCAs) to enable new nuclear trade deals with both EU and non-EU countries.

Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the institution 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.

"With the Article 50 process taking just two years, the UK government must act quickly to start the process to develop NCAs to enable international trade, for goods such as nuclear fuels and research. [The] government must also make sure that the UK will be able to access sector specific skills not currently available in the UK, such as centrifuge technology expertise. There needs to be a thorough framework in place to provide assurances on nuclear safety, nuclear proliferation and environmental issues.

"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 report makes three recommendations.

The government must develop a suitable transitional framework that provides the UK nuclear industry an alternative State System of Accountancy and Control creating the same provision as Euratom prior to leaving the EU and Euratom treaties, it said.

"The Institution would welcome the opportunity to support the UK Government and the Office for Nuclear Regulation in the development of this system," it added.

The government must create new NCAs with Euratom and non-EU trading countries prior to leaving Euratom, it said.

"Specific commitments for nuclear goods, services and research activities should be made as part of new trade deals with the USA, Canada, Australia, China and South Africa. The Institution would welcome the opportunity to support the Departments for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and International Trade in developing these commitments."

Its third recommendation is that the government, through the National Decommissioning Authority, "enables innovative commercial opportunities to sell nuclear services and waste treatment technology to world trade partners".

Explanatory notes to a bill authorising Brexit the government published on 26 January state the document empowers the prime minister to leave both the European Union and Euratom. The peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU is governed by the 1957 Euratom Treaty.

The Euratom Community is a separate legal entity from the EU, but it is governed by the bloc's institutions. Euratom is thus enforceable by the European Court of Justice.

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis told the House of Commons on 31 January the 2008 EU Amendment Act "makes clear" that in UK law membership of the European Union includes Euratom. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, he added, thus applies both to the EU and Euratom.

May has said she plans to trigger Article 50 and thus start the Brexit process next month.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News