Brexit and Nuclear Energy

Mimi El-Khazindar
March 8, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Fig. 1: "Now Panic and Freak Out". (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Currently, the United Kingdom is at the brink of Brexit. Parliament is attempting to agree to a deal and the country is in despair over the conundrum (see Fig. 1). There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding how Brexit will affect the United Kingdom, including its future in nuclear energy.

Today's Renewable Energy

Since the 2008 Energy Act, the United Kingdoms policies have fought for a decrease in CO2 emissions. Renewable energy capacity has tripled in the past 6 years, and, most recently, the UK's renewables has surpassed the capacity of fossil fuels for the first time. [1] Nuclear energy plays a part in supplying the UK with energy. "Britain's old nuclear power stations supply about a fifth of electricity supplies". [2] The percentage has decreased from 25% of total annual electricity generation in the late 1990s. This is in part due to age-ing related issues, forcing old plants to be shut down.

Brexit's Effects

The Euratom Treaty manages nuclear research in the European Union. As Britain is planning to leave the European Union, this also means they will be withdraw from the Euratom. [3] Being removed from this group leaves the UK losing out on nuclear decommissioning orders from elsewhere in Europe, especially Germany and Sweden, largely damaging their nuclear energy industry. [3] The UK promises to be responsible for maintaining international nuclear standards after Brexit ad would make separate agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency to replace the current UK-Euratom arrangements. [4] Furthermore, the UK will be responsible for refunding the Euratom for equipment as it currently not the property of the UK; however, doing so will allow the UK to be free to dictate the future of nuclear in its country.

Next Steps

Next steps for the UK are mainly based on planning. They will have total agency over the future of their nuclear energy. An option is to remain by the standards of the Euratom and continue to be firmly committed to the highest standards of nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation. [4] However, they will be unable to participate in Euratom research projects. Another option is for the UK to draft their own set of domestic safeguards that exceed their international obligations. [4] There is still a large amount of uncertainty surrounding this topic, and Brexit as a whole. The plans for the United Kingdom will be demonstrated from their ability to come to a consensus in Parliament.

© Mimi El-Khazindar. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. Vaughan, "UK Renewable Energy Capacity Surpasses Fossil Fuels for the First Time," The Guardian, 6 Nov 18.

[2] A. Vaughan, "What Role Does Nuclear Power Play in UK and What Are Alternatives?," The Guardian, 17 Jan 19.

[3] C. Mason, "What Does the UK's Nuclear Future Look Like?" BBC News, 5 Oct 16.

[4] T. Husseini, UK to Leave Euratom After Brexit, Despite Uncertainty," Power Technology, 16 Nov 18.