Hinkley C at risk if UK pulls out of Euratom as ministers want

“The legal logic behind the UK’s planned exit from a key European nuclear group has been called into question by experts who have branded the risky move an unnecessary step in the Brexit process.

The Government said it will leave Euratom as a result of the decision to exit the EU because “they are uniquely legally joined” but the justification has been rubbished by experts who say there is no legal reason the UK cannot remain within Euratom while leaving the bloc.

Herbert Smith Freehills, the law firm advising EDF on the Hinkley Point C new nuclear project, said the Government’s legal interpretation has created unnecessary risks.

Leaving Euratom’s regulatory framework could delay the planned Hinkley Point and Horizon nuclear plants while complicated new bilateral agreements are formed. It could also bring imports of nuclear fuel to an immediate halt, which lead to a shutdown of existing nuclear power reactors which make up a fifth of the UK’s electricity supply.

Julia Pyke, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills and the firm’s lead adviser to EDF, told the Daily Telegraph the risk is “an own goal”.

“The balance of legal opinion is that it’s not legally necessary to exit Euratom in order to leave the EU,” she said. …

… Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association and a former shadow energy minister, said the sector has made it crystal clear that it would prefer to maintain membership of Euratom.

“However, if the UK ceases to be part of Euratom, then it is vital that the Government agree transitional arrangements, to give the UK time to negotiate and complete new agreements. The UK should remain a member of Euratom until these arrangements are put in place,” he urged.