UK: Brexit: What Now For The Future Of Nuclear In The UK?

Leave won the day. Some say it may be many years (and not just two) before Brexit is fully embedded. What will the impact be on the UK nuclear sector, our nuclear export potential and our nuclear safety and security framework?

1. Investment

UK new nuclear build investment has for some time presented a challenge. This has led to false starts and an elongation of the original programme at Hinkley Point C (HPC). The changing relationship between the UK and France, and the impact of Brexit on both economies, may test the French Government's commitment to HPC.

Another key factor is that life extension of EDF Energy's existing nuclear fleet has been a significant contribution to the UK's plant margin. Maintaining commitment to life extension if the electricity price remains low, and perhaps encouraging life extension of coal assets, is likely in a world where uncertainty of market arrangements could impact interconnector planning.

Going forward, Brexit is likely to increase the focus on security of energy supply and the need to deliver new nuclear generation. However, in the short term, the leadership election, ministerial changes and currency instability could potentially set back discussions on future projects or imminent approvals by developers and investors.

For operators and developers, the fall in sterling may make the UK more attractive as a supplier but add to the cost of imported components. Notably, the majority of generation plant is sourced outwith the UK.

2. Skills

UK new build projects working towards construction which would have benefited from the free movement of skilled EU labour will need to consider how to supplement an ageing and diminishing workforce. There has been much discussion about the possible introduction of an Australian points-based system or access to the UK for skilled workers. But with new nuclear in the UK largely being developed by foreign-owned projects, free movement restrictions will be another issue to address.

3. Construction cost

If skilled labour is allowed to become scarce, there could be an increase in the cost of local labour driving an overall increase in the cost of nuclear construction. Already, the bunching of new nuclear projects combined with ambitious decommissioning plans by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is creating the prospect of pressure on specialist skills. This is currently eased by the downturn in the oil and gas sector but, as it starts to focus on decommissioning, the sector may see prices firming.

Materials imported from the EU previously tariff-free will be vulnerable both to tariffs and a weak pound while the renegotiation of trade agreements worldwide adds complexity. The lack of a customs union with the EU will also affect costs if our negotiations do not maintain the existing access to the single market.

However, the UK is traditionally a nation of traders reaching out to all corners of the world. Through its links with its Commonwealth partners, trading routes are already understood and available and in time can be built up. The family of nuclear nations is a known quantity well placed to adapt quickly to new trading opportunities.

4. Exporting nuclear know how

The immediate effect on the export economy today is that the UK is more cost-competitive than it was a week ago.

The UK has been presented with the opportunity to re-launch its national brand and, over time, new trading arrangements independent of Europe may be beneficial to export. The smaller independent nature of our offering in comparison to that of the EU block and its effect on the tariffs agreed will of course need to be overcome, but new international alliances will no doubt be forged.

5. Nuclear regulation and Euratom - will we leave this Treaty too?

Nuclear regulation is founded in International Conventions, nuclear community peer groups and policy. This is overseen by the inter-governmental International Atomic Energy Agency, part of the United Nations family. Our participation in this is unlikely to waiver.

That is probably not the case with the Euratom Treaty, signed in 1957 at the same time as the Treaty of Rome. This was intended both as a tenet of peaceful coexistence and to allow civil use of nuclear for the generation of electricity. The Euratom Treaty administration is integrated with the European Commission.

Pre-referendum indications were that the UK will exit all EU Treaties. Assuming the UK's tie-in through EU membership will come to an end, a new atomic co-operation treaty between the UK and the Euratom community will need to be agreed. An exit from Euratom will also trigger the need to join the queue to agree a Section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954 agreement as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the US and the UK.

6. State aid and EU Competition and Procurement Rules

On first sight, one might assume Brexit means freedom from EU State Aid rules and the challenges which have beset HPC. The hope would be that this could ease a UK Government decision to take a more active investment role in new build long called for by the industry, potentially a game changer for new build in the UK.

Regardless though of which model is adopted, be it a baseline outcome where no agreement is reached, throwing us back on to our World Trade Organisation (WTO) relationship, or akin to that of Norway, or the slightly nuanced Swiss model, or the transatlantic trade and investment partnership model, state aid rules will continue to apply up to Brexit, and potentially to an extent beyond, if we seek to maintain access to the single market. Even the WTO treaties contain effective trade defence mechanisms, which would limit the UK's freedom to use public funds to underpin UK industry alone.

The trading model adopted may affect procurement. For instance, decommissioning tenders subject to public procurement may in future benefit from shorter, less costly procedures. However it should be borne in mind that the underlying principles of public procurement are in essence good business practice.

7. Nuclear liability/insurance

As a signatory to the Paris Convention on third party nuclear liability, the UK needs to give effect to the additional largely environmental forms of damage for which victims of a nuclear incident may be able to claim. It is likely that the long process of ratification of the Draft Nuclear Installations (Liability for Damage) Order 2016 by EU member states will take place within the two year Brexit period. As such, Brexit is unlikely to have much of an effect on the regulation of nuclear liability.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
22 Nov 2017, Seminar, Montreal, Canada

Please join us on Wednesday, Nov. 22 for a breakfast seminar featuring a panel of experts who are abreast of the most recent developments in the field. Also featured will be Paul Allard, president of Impak Finance, who launched the first cryptocurrency offering under the traditional financial regulatory framework.

29 Nov 2017, Seminar, London, UK

Join us at 4 More London for this breakfast seminar on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 to gain a greater understanding on this debate. Coffee and breakfast will be from 08:30 with the discussion commencing at 09:00. We will finish and have you on your way by 10:00.

7 Dec 2017, Seminar, London, UK

Would you like the opportunity to hear more about the potential disruptive effect that blockchain is going to have in the energy sector? If so, please join us on 7 December where Jo-Jo Hubbard, a leading light in this area, will explain all.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.