FORATOM head wants "close relationship!" with UK after Brexit

The head of FORATOM, which represents the European nuclear industry, believes that it will continue to enjoy a “close relationship” with the UK even after it exits the EU.

There have been concerns that current collaboration between the UK and Europe’s nuclear sector, including new build, decommissioning, R&D and other programmes, will be disrupted after Britain leaves the EU next March.

A report by the UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee warns that “the Government has left the UK nuclear industry at risk and must act urgently in order to ensure its continued operation post-Brexit”.

The committee said that “any interval between the UK leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and entering into secure alternative arrangements would severely inhibit nuclear trade and research and threaten power supplies”.

But, speaking at a news briefing in Brussels Yves Desbazeille, director general of the Brussels-based FORATOM, sought to allay such concerns  by insisting he believes there will still be “strong cooperation” with the UK, post Brexit.

He said that while “many grey areas” existed in the ongoing Brexit debate and the negotiations between the EU and UK he still believes a solution can be found which will allow the two sides to work together.

He said, “There will, if there is an agreement, be a transition period during which the current arrangements will continue. We will still have to wait to see what the final agreement says and what the arrangement will be with the UK.

“But I am sure a solution can be found to allow strong cooperation to continue with the UK and the Euratom community even after the UK has left the EU.”

There had, he said, been a relative absence of discussion on current collaboration in this field  before and after the EU Referendum in the UK.

  But he added, “We have a lot of common issues between us and I do not see why we cannot find significant room for cooperation.”

He was speaking at a press conference where FORATOM presented a report which it hopes illustrate the role nuclear can have in meeting Europe’s future energy needs.

The report says that “if Europe is serious” about decarbonising its economy by 2050 then one quarter of the electricity produced in the EU will need to come from nuclear.

FORATOM is made up of 15 national nuclear associations and represents nearly 3,000 European companies.

The occasion marked the official release of the European nuclear industry’s Vision 2050 study which sets out in detail the current role nuclear plays on the energy front and also what it can contribute towards the so called decarbonisation of Europe.

It comes just ahead of the European Commission’s 2050 Climate Strategy and COP 24.

Andrei Goicea, executive manager at FORATOM, said the study provides an analysis – through three different scenarios – of the European nuclear sector’s contribution to several energy policy objectives: security of supply, decarbonisation and sustainability, and affordability/competitiveness.

Nuclear currently enjoys about a 24 per cent of the energy mix in Europe but, with Germany phasing out nuclear and others such as Belgium considering doing the same, some have suggested nuclear’s contribution will diminish in the years to come.

He said the study “demonstrates the important contribution of nuclear to the transition towards a decarbonised European power system.”

The report says that if nuclear still accounts for 24 per cent of the energy mix in 2050 “the EU has a chance of meeting its 2050 decarbonisation targets.”

“Nuclear can also support variable renewable sources of energy by providing proven, carbon free power to the system and reducing the system’s reliance on yet unproven storage technologies.”

The study focuses on three nuclear capacity scenarios in 2050: “low”, “medium”  and “high.”

The high scenario foresees the long term operation of existing nuclear power plants as well as new build projects.

Under this scenario, the report estimates that the  industry’s current 800,000-strong workforce could be bolstered by as many as one million new jobs between 2020 and 2050.

Despite increasing calls for renewables to make up the bulk of Europe’s future energy needs, the report insists nuclear must account for one quarter of the energy mix to ensure that Europe meets its 2050 low-carbon targets.

The industry accounts for 26 per cent of electricity in the EU and generates an annual turnover of €70bn.

Desbazeille said, “Nuclear power is a low-carbon technology which is available today.

“Instead of focusing on technologies which have yet to be proven, both technically and financially, the EU should be promoting those which can already provide the low carbon electricity which Europe needs. Only by doing so, does the EU stand a chance of meeting its 2050 decarbonisation targets.”

Further comment comes from Fabien Roques, executive Vice President of FTI Compass Lexecon Energy,who said the study found that achieving the European emissions targets in a scenario with a significant early phasing out of nuclear plants “would prove more challenging and increase costs for customers.”

He said, “The results demonstrate how nuclear can contribute to an ambitious decarbonisation of the European economy.”

He adds that, “In our view, the EU needs an electricity market design which rewards flexible sources and provides stable long-term investment signals.”

FORATOM says that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report  also recognises that nuclear power is “essential” if the world is to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees.

According to one of the IPCC scenarios, a six-fold increase in global nuclear capacity is needed if we want to achieve our climate goals.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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