Government confirms UK commitment to fusion research

Alternative ways of participating in fusion research following the withdrawal from the Euratom treaty are being sought

Science Minister Jo Johnson has reaffirmed the UK's commitment to nuclear fusion research and has stated that efforts are being made to ensure the future of the Joint European Torus (JET) project and participation in ITER when the UK withdraws from the Euratom treaty as part of the Brexit process.

In a statement issued by the UKAEA, Johnson confirmed that the withdrawal from Euratom is due to the treaty’s legal linkage to the UK's membership of the European Union and is therefore an intrinsic part of Brexit. "The research done at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is rightly recognised as world class and it has driven UK leadership in fusion R&D for many years,” he said. “The government has no intention of compromising this position following the decision to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty.

"Maintaining and building on our world-leading fusion expertise and securing alternative routes into the international fusion R&D projects such as the JET project at Culham and the Iter project in France, will be a priority,” Johnson continued. He added that he is already in talks with UKAEA management to look at how this can be achieved following Euratom withdrawal. Both the UK's hosting of JET and its participation in ITER have so far depended on Euratom membership.

Meanwhile, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has called on the government to take action to protect the future of the nuclear industry in the UK after Euratom withdrawal. In a report issued this week, the institution called on the government to set up a transitional framework to provide a State System of Accountancy and Control equivalent to that provided by the treaty; to create new nuclear cooperation agreements with the remaining Euratom members and non-EU states; and to ensure that the UK can still sell decommissioning and waste treatment technology and services to other countries through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.