Guidance

Nuclear research after Brexit

How researchers working on civil nuclear fission and fusion will be affected if there's a no-deal Brexit.

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The UK will leave the EU on 31 October. This page tells you how to prepare for Brexit. It will be updated if anything changes, including if a deal is agreed.

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This guidance is relevant to:

  • researchers and research organisations in the field of nuclear fission research (the current method of energy generation used at power plants)
  • researchers and research organisations in the field of nuclear fusion research (experimental energy generation technology)

Changes

The UK will leave Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community) and will no longer be:

  • a member of the Euratom Research & Training (R&T) programme
  • a member of Fusion for Energy
  • able to collaborate on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project through the EU

Euratom Research & Training (R&T) programme

The government will guarantee funding for eligible, successful direct bids to the EU made by UK organisations until the end of 2020 for competitive grants under EU programmes. This includes Euratom R&T funding.

Current UK recipients of Euratom R&T funding should submit their details on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) portal.

The information provided will be used to inform recipients of the next steps in receiving guaranteed funds.

We will work with the European Commission to ensure that UK organisations will be able to continue to participate in awards where they have successfully bid directly to the Commission on a competitive basis.

We are continuing to work with the European Commission to consider possible implications for UK participants which are leading a consortium and are responsible for distributing funding to the other participants.

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

The UK will no longer be a member of Fusion for Energy and UK businesses will not be able to bid for ITER contracts through Fusion for Energy.

However, the UK government is exploring alternative options to maintain UK participation in ITER.

The ITER Council has confirmed that:

  • contracts of UK nationals employed by ITER will remain valid until their agreed contract end date
  • signed contracts/agreements with UK operators (including private companies, institutes and universities) will remain valid until their agreed contract end date

This applies to contracts signed before 30 March 2019.

Joint European Torus (JET)

The government has confirmed that it will guarantee the funding for UK participation in JET until the end of 2020. Operations will continue at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, until the end of 2020 regardless of the Brexit outcome.

Background

The UK is currently a member of Euratom, which facilitates cooperation between EU countries in the civil nuclear sector. This includes participation in the Euratom Research & Training programme enabling UK organisations and scientists to collaborate on a range of nuclear research projects and facilities, including:

  • JET: located at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire UK, is the world’s largest operational magnetically confined plasma physics experiment, and the focal point of the European fusion research programme
  • ITER: located in Cadarache in France, ITER is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject
  • Joint Research Centre: The Joint Research Centre is the European Commission’s science and knowledge service. It employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy
  • indirect actions (such as a competitive call for proposals for fission research and the JET Operating Contract)

The Euratom Research and Training programme runs for 5 years at a time, with scope for a 2-year extension within the same Multiannual Financial Framework cycle. The current programme runs between 2014 to 2018 and an extension has been agreed for 2019 to 2020 by the EU.

Published 13 August 2019