Ireland enjoys a close working relationship with the United Kingdom (UK) on radiological matters of mutual interest. This relationship is formalised through a UK-Ireland Contact Group which meets biannually. The most recent meeting held in Dublin on April 18 was attended by officials from my Department, the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United Kingdom’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Office for Nuclear Regulation, and National Decommissioning Authority, as well as officials from the Isle of Man administration.
Through this process officials from my Department and the EPA have the opportunity to raise issues of concern directly with the UK at both a policy and technical level. The UK's new nuclear build programme, including Hinkley Point C, is a standing agenda item at these meetings. This engagement informed the publication of the 2013 EPA report on Proposed nuclear power plants in the UK – potential radiological implications for Ireland, which found that the routine operation of the proposed nuclear power plants, including Hinkley Point C, will have no measurable radiological impact on Ireland or the Irish marine environment. Senior officials from my Department and the EPA also visited the Hinkley Point C site in October 2017 to learn more about the project.
The UK exit from the Euratom Treaty, as part of Brexit, has also been discussed at recent meetings of the Group, including at the latest meeting in Dublin on 18 April. The on-going Brexit negotiations, including matters relating to the UK's decision to leave the Euratom Treaty, are being conducted bilaterally between the European Union, represented by the European Commission, and the UK. Ireland contributes to the process through its representation at the European Council Article 50 Working Party which meets regularly to discuss Brexit related issues, including Euratom.
In March of this year, I received a letter from the UK Minister for Energy and Industry in relation to the UK's exit from Euratom which outlined planned future UK arrangements on civil nuclear power. This letter provided significant assurances in relation to nuclear safety standards. I have welcomed this information from my UK counterpart which is indicative of the constructive relationship Ireland enjoys with the UK in this area.
There are currently no safety or security concerns for Ireland arising from the UK withdrawal from the Euratom Treaty. In the first instance, the UK remains a member of Euratom, and the UK nuclear industry remains subject to oversight by the EU institutions, until such time as their withdrawal from the EU is finalised.
Last year the UK transposed Euratom's revised Nuclear Safety Directive which requires EU countries to give the highest priority to nuclear safety at all stages of the lifecycle of a nuclear power plant. It aims to improve the existing regulatory framework for the safety of nuclear installations, following lessons learned from the Fukishima accident in Japan. In addition, the UK is a signatory of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Convention on Nuclear Safety and applies the strict standards on safety and security set down in the Convention. This will continue to be the case after the UK withdraw from the Euratom Treaty.