Brexit and nuclear safety treaty

 

Sir, – Reading your report on nuclear safety after the UK leaves the Euratom arrangements, it is clear that Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten must do more than simply accept cosy platitudes from his UK counterpart (“‘Vague assurances’ on post-Brexit nuclear safety ‘not worth much’, says FF”, News, June 18th).

While the Border issue is a pivotal part of the negotiations of Brexit, the parallel decision to leave the Euratom Treaty arrangements is still of real importance. The treaty oversees all external safety and security checks at UK nuclear sites, particularly Sellafield, as well as monitoring the UK’s duties in not proliferating nuclear materials that could be converted into a nuclear weapons programme. In our view, the UK government needs to grow up on the issue of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice on matters of nuclear safety. The UK government has compromised all over the place on Brexit, and by refusing to do so on this subject, it is putting all of our safety at risk on a point of political expediency.

As The Irish Times has correctly noted, the transfer of these duties to the domestic nuclear regulator is not without risk, and there is real concern that there may not be enough inspectors recruited in sufficient time and that key and complicated IT systems to verify such work are put in place by March 2019. Last month the Oireachtas Joint Planning Committee heard of detailed concerns over the UK’s approach to assessing the transboundary impacts of plans to develop new nuclear plants like Hinkley Point and Wylfa. Any accident from an existing or new nuclear plant could have devastating health, economic and social impacts on Ireland, so it is important not just to receive assurances, but to properly audit them and to be satisfied that a new nuclear safety regime remains fit for purpose. Ireland is extensively doing that with other impacts of Brexit on the country, and in our view, this should be a core part of that detailed discussion. We also want to know how both governments will prioritise nuclear safety and energy policy in a post-Brexit world, where we see a real lack of forward thinking in addressing the energy needs of both the UK and Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Cllr MARK DEAREY,

Cllr JOHN TRAINOR,

Co-Chairmen,

Nuclear-Free Local

Authorities All-Ireland

Forum,

c/o NFLAIF Secretariat,

Newry,

Co Down.