Britain’s first nuclear power station in two decades will be delayed by a government decision to quit Europe’s atomic power treaty, experts have warned.
Ministers revealed on Thursday that Brexit would involve the UK leaving Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards.
The news poses problems for the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, while raising questions over safety inspection regimes and the UK’s future participation in nuclear fusion research.
“Leaving Euratom is a lose-lose for everyone. For nuclear proponents, the industry becomes less competitive – and for nuclear critics, safety regulation diminishes,” said Dr Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London.
Referring to Hinkley and other nuclear projects in the pipeline, he said: “The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increas nuclear costs and will mean further delays.
EDF, which is building the Hinkley project and hopes to construct other plants, has told MPs that “ideally” the UK would stay in the treaty, as it provided a framework for complying with international standards for handling nuclear material.
Without mentioning Hinkley, the French state-owned company also warned that restrictions on the movement of people because of Brexit could delay delivery of new energy infrastructure.
Antony Froggatt, a research fellow at the Chatham House thinktank, said: “Outside of Euratom and the single market, the movement of nuclear fuel, equipment and trained staff will be more complicated.”