Until recently, few of us were familiar with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), the international organisation that governs many aspects of nuclear energy activity in member states. Brexit, and the rapidly retracted “leak” that Britain may seek “associate membership” of Euratomhas suddenly brought Euratom to the fore. The precise legal situation regarding the UK’s continued membership of Euratom is contested, but there is much to learn from the history of this relationship: over the past six decades the UK has attempted to become an associate member or full member of Euratom five times. Since joining in 1973, any nuclear treaties with other nations (including any signed before that date) were placed under the aegis of Euratom. This means that if Britain leaves Euratom, all its complex nuclear treaties with the United States, the rest of Europe and many other nations across the world will need to be re-ratified in national legislatures before Britain is no longer a member. This is a large international legislative task, and requires quick action before the Article 50 process ends in just over a year. If the treaties are not re-ratified by national parliaments, then, depending on the treaty, the UK could be in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and a worst-case scenario could have a variety of very serious consequences including: stopping work on Hinkley C, halting the movement of nuclear fuel, and even ending the import of medical isotopes for cancer treatments.
Guardian 2nd Aug 2017 read more »