The UK Government has reportedly revealed plans to exit the European atomic energy community (Euratom), which is a separate legal entity from the European Union (EU) but is governed by EU institutions.
Since 1957, the Euratom treaty has governed the peaceful use of nuclear energy by establishing a common market of nuclear goods and services within the EU.
Reportedly alluded to in a bill authorising Brexit, the exit is expected to impact the UK nuclear industry, as well as the nation's participation in research and development efforts.
UK-based trade union Prospect has expressed concern over UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s intent to depart from the community.
Condemning the government’s decision to leave Euratom, Prospect deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said: “Jeopardising years of knowledge and the UK’s position at the forefront of this technology is ill-informed, irresponsible and unnecessary.
“Nuclear fusion research in the UK is very dependent on membership of Euratom, both through funding and research collaborations.
“Culham has been a world leader in fusion research for decades. It hosts the world’s largest magnetic fusion experiment (JET). It is involved in fusion technology programmes and the next step experiment – the international nuclear fusion project (ITER) – which is currently under construction.”
JET is reportedly the world’s largest tokamak, an advanced magnetic confinement system that has been the basis for the design of future fusion reactors.
A joint venture funded by the European Commission, the JET programme includes more than 40 laboratories and receives support from nearly 350 scientists and engineers from all over Europe.
The Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire is the UK’s national laboratory for fusion research.
Ferns further added: “The Culham laboratory brings many highly skilled jobs to the area and benefits wider industry through partnerships.”
“Leaving Euratom has implications for the continued operation of JET after the existing contract ends and for UK participation in the international nuclear fusion project.”
Image: Scientists and engineers in the UK condemn government’s decision to exit the European atomic energy community. Photo: courtesy of Prospect.