US must lead world in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, says Bill Gates

November 27th, 2018 no comment

The ‘Axios on HBO’ Gates interview was shown just two days after the Trump administration released a government report warning that damage from global warming could slash as much as 10 per cent in value off the nation’s economy by the end of the century. The administration was criticised for attempting to quietly slip the report out on the Friday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend, hoping that most people would be too busy to notice. The Trump administration previously caused worldwide concern by pulling the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

“It’s very American to invent things to help the entire world. We’re always on the front of new science and new product development,” Gates said to HBO’s Axios journalists. “So it would be tragic if this was the first time the US didn’t play that role.

“A lot of people think, ‘OK, renewable energy, wind and solar, has gotten a lot cheaper, isn’t that it?’ Well, electricity is only a quarter of the problem. In fact, we’ve got to solve the entire 100 per cent. You know, unless somebody has the pie in their mind that, OK, electricity’s 25 per cent, agriculture’s 24 per cent, transport’s 14 per cent, unless they start with that, we’re not really talking about the same problem.”

In the interview, Gates pointed out that the emissions problem goes beyond power generation and that manufacturing, buildings and food production all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. “We’re very far away from getting all these sources down to zero, which is what we have to do to solve this problem,” he said.

Gates also offered some surprising criticism of green-energy proponents, arguing that those who focus solely on eco energy solutions as the key to unlocking the climate change issue are potentially as damaging to real progress as those who help to prop up fossil fuel industries, as it prevents a wider understanding of the emissions problem as a whole and obscures the bigger climate change picture.

“A lot of people think renewable energy,” he said. “When electricity is only a quarter of the problem. In fact, we’ve got to solve the entire 100 per cent.”

Throughout the interview, Gates referred to a pie chart that he and his team have devised to illustrate “the entire 100 per cent”, detailing the causes of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions:

  •     Electricity: 25 per cent
  •     Transportation: 14 per cent
  •     Manufacturing: 21 per cent
  •     Buildings: 6 per cent
  •     Agriculture: 24 per cent
  •     Other sources: 10 per cent

Gates’ key message is that people worldwide have to realise that addressing climate change means fundamentally changing the way they live, including rethinking the global economy.

“For example, if synthetic meat works, that actually is a pretty big deal. But that’s at an early stage,” he said. “If electric cars become mainstream products, which they are not today, that’s also a little piece of the problem. But you need to make steel in new ways, you need to make fertiliser in new ways.”

Gates – worth an estimated $100 billion – has used his great personal wealth in recent years to drive forward a raft of climate change initiatives. He currently leads a coalition of billionaires – including Jeff Bezos and George Soros – who are investing in clean energy technologies. He also supports Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1bn private fund to help entrepreneurs launch clean energy companies. Meanwhile, the philanthropic organisation he founded, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is focusing on the adaptation to climate change, as well as a grand ambition to eradicate all diseases.

Gates acknowledged the difficulties in getting people to pay attention to climate change, saying: “On climate change, it’s hard because we’ll get interested and then let’s say the US economy isn’t as strong. You know, people’s willingness to talk about something that’s 40 years away is a lot higher when a lot of things are going well.”

For a man investing billions of his own money in the pursuit of a healthier planet for all mankind, there was some comforting news for Gates on Monday: for a brief period, Microsoft overtook Apple to become the world’s most valuable company.

It was the first time in eight years that Microsoft’s valuation has exceeded that of Apple, when it briefly reached a high of $812.93bn, with Apple just behind at $812.60bn. However, by the end of the day, the positions had reversed again, putting Apple back at the top.

Movember charity rolls out contactless donation badges

November 26th, 2018 no comment

Every year, during the month of November, the charity encourages the growing of moustaches to raise awareness of (and to raise funds for) men’s health complications, including testicular cancer, prostate cancer and higher rates of completed suicide. This year, more than 50,000 supporters have signed up to grow a moustache to support the cause.

This year, as the use of physical coins and notes continues to decline in the UK and other countries, and the use of alternative types of payment – such as mobile payments – increases, the Movember Foundation has become the first charity to introduce contactless donation badges to support its “no-fuss fundraising”. According to the charity, supporters can donate to the charity simply by tapping the badge.

A supporter’s smartphone communicates with an NFC chip embedded in the badge using high-frequency radio waves. A webform is opened on the smartphone, where users can select a donation amount and complete the payment using Apple Pay, PayPal or contactless card. Fundraisers can also collect gift aid with each donation.

“Movember started as a simple way to raise money and awareness for a good cause, something that anyone can take part in – the contactless badge is the next step,” said Owen Sharp, Movember CEO. “So many of our incredible supporters take part in amazing challenges and our no-fuss badges take donating to a whole new level, allowing our fundraisers to wear the badges with pride.”

The contactless donation badges will initially be trialled in the US and Australia.

In March, the Church of England began experimenting with the use of contactless payment terminals in order to collect donations from congregations, with the Church’s national stewardship officer commenting: “How we pay for things is changing fast, especially for younger churchgoers who no longer carry cash and we want all generations to be able to make the most of their place of worship.”

Openreach aims for ultrafast broadband to reach another one million UK homes

November 26th, 2018 no comment

Cities such as London, Leicester, Manchester and Birmingham are among the 81 locations revealed, making up the next phase of the company’s build programme, which is set to be completed over the next nine months. This stage will add to the more than 250 locations where the technology has already been deployed.

Openreach says the multimillion-pound investment will make faster, more reliable broadband services available to residents and businesses, helping to boost local productivity and competitiveness, to reinforce the UK’s position as the leading digital economy in the Group of Twenty (G20).

Kim Mears of Openreach said: “Currently, the UK is a world leader in digital infrastructure and services, but as the digital revolution rushes forwards and the demand for data continues to grow, we need to make sure we stay ahead of the curve.

“That’s why we’re investing in faster, more reliable network infrastructure to facilitate all the activities we want to do now, and those we haven’t even dreamt of doing in 10 years’ time.”

Ultrafast broadband speeds can be delivered using both Gfast and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technologies, with Openreach’s announcement encouraging a wider investment programme in future-proof FTTP networks, which is on track to reach three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020.

Combining these two technologies, Openreach has already made ultrafast broadband available to more than 1.9 million premises across the UK.

Building on existing infrastructure, its new Gfast network intends to change the way broadband signals are transmitted from existing street cabinets to boost speeds up to 330Mbps (seven times today’s UK average), without the need to dig up roads and install new cabling, according to Openreach.

Furthermore, the company says these advancements will enable users to support simultaneous 4K video streams in every room of their house, with the new technology providing enough additional capacity to support future data-hungry services and applications, such as Virtual Reality gaming.

The technology can also provide for advances in smart homes, where a network of online sensors can coordinate and control home appliances, such as thermostats, security cameras to lock door and washing machines.

Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) has called from 15 million properties to be covered with fibre optic broadband by 2025 and for nationwide coverage to be completed by 2033.

Openreach plans to reach a total of 5.7 million properties using Gfast by 2020, with the company also saying that it aspires to expand its fibre to the home (FTTH) rollout to 10 million premises by the year advised by the FTIR, if it has the right economic conditions.

In August, local authorities were encouraged to submit bids for part of a £95m fund to improve local broadband, with the minister for digital, Margot James, saying the fund would aid the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK.

Furthermore, in July, the government encouraged housing developers to install full-fibre broadband cables in all new-build homes as part of efforts to ensure that the entirety of the UK can access superfast broadband speeds by 2033.

Hydrogen is key to UK’s low-carbon economy, says Committee on Climate Change

November 22nd, 2018 no comment

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an executive non-departmental public body, advises the government on emissions targets and reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In its latest report, published today, the CCC has said that hydrogen is a credible option to help decarbonise the UK energy system, but any potential future role depends on early Government commitment and improved support to develop the UK’s industrial capability.

The report also states that if hydrogen can be combined with greater energy efficiency, cheap low-carbon power generation, electrified transport and new ‘hybrid’ heat-pump systems – all of which have already been successfully trialed in the UK – hydrogen can make an important contribution to long-term decarbonisation.

Hydrogen could also replace natural gas in parts of the energy system, where electrification is not feasible or is prohibitively expensive, for example in providing heat on colder winter days, industrial heat processes and back-up power generation.

The report’s key recommendations are:

  •     Government must commit to developing a low-carbon heat strategy within the next three years.
  •     Significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen should be produced in a carbon capture and storage (CCS) ‘cluster’ by 2030 to help the industry grow.
  •     Government must support the early demonstration of the everyday uses of hydrogen in order to establish the practicality of switching from natural gas to hydrogen.
  •     There is low awareness amongst the general public of reasons to move away from natural-gas heating to low-carbon alternatives.
  •     A strategy should be developed for low-carbon heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) which encourages a move away from fossil fuels and biofuels to zero-emission solutions by 2050.

The report is available as a free download from the CCC web site.

The potential of hydrogen as a zero-carbon energy source has always been recognised, yet in previous assessments it has been impractical or overly expensive to roll out at scale. The report finds hydrogen could replace natural gas in parts of the energy system, where electrification is not feasible or is prohibitively expensive, for example in providing heat on colder winter days, industrial heat processes and for back-up power generation.

There remain significant obstacles to the decarbonisation of industry, transportation and heat, despite the advances arising from the UK’s focus on cleaning up electricity generation over the last decade. A combination of energy efficiency and the electrification of the economy can continue to reduce UK emissions substantially. However, this is not enough to reach full decarbonisation in every sector.

The report also makes it clear that hydrogen is not a ‘silver bullet’ solution and should ideally be considered in a supporting role in the reduction of carbon across all sectors. The report examines some common misconceptions, such as the impracticality of switching the gas grid to 100 per cent hydrogen; the prohibitive expense of producing bulk hydrogen from renewable electricity, and the fact that hydrogen from fossil fuels is not zero-carbon, even when using carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “Hydrogen has the potential to contribute to near-zero-carbon energy emissions if used strategically. The Government must now decide whether it wishes to develop a UK hydrogen option, taking decisions now that will see the first deployment in the 2020s.

“This must be in parallel with efforts to improve energy efficiency, build further low-cost renewables and get carbon capture and storage underway. The time for the Government to move from theory to practice has arrived.

“Most exciting of all is the prospect of producing low-carbon heat; using smart hybrid heat pumps in combination with natural gas in the short-term, with the potential for hydrogen in the long-term.

“The future now rests on Government making a quick decision and fully committing to low-carbon heat within the next three years. This is important to achieving the existing 2050 emissions target, but even more important as we consider whether it is possible for the UK to reach ‘net-zero’ emissions in the future.”

Hydrogen is key to UK’s low-carbon economy, says Committee on Climate Change

November 22nd, 2018 no comment

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an executive non-departmental public body, advises the government on emissions targets and reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In its latest report, published today, the CCC has said that hydrogen is a credible option to help decarbonise the UK energy system, but any potential future role depends on early Government commitment and improved support to develop the UK’s industrial capability.

The report also states that if hydrogen can be combined with greater energy efficiency, cheap low-carbon power generation, electrified transport and new ‘hybrid’ heat-pump systems – all of which have already been successfully trialed in the UK – hydrogen can make an important contribution to long-term decarbonisation.

Hydrogen could also replace natural gas in parts of the energy system, where electrification is not feasible or is prohibitively expensive, for example in providing heat on colder winter days, industrial heat processes and back-up power generation.

The report’s key recommendations are:

  •     Government must commit to developing a low-carbon heat strategy within the next three years.
  •     Significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen should be produced in a carbon capture and storage (CCS) ‘cluster’ by 2030 to help the industry grow.
  •     Government must support the early demonstration of the everyday uses of hydrogen in order to establish the practicality of switching from natural gas to hydrogen.
  •     There is low awareness amongst the general public of reasons to move away from natural-gas heating to low-carbon alternatives.
  •     A strategy should be developed for low-carbon heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) which encourages a move away from fossil fuels and biofuels to zero-emission solutions by 2050.

The report is available as a free download from the CCC web site.

The potential of hydrogen as a zero-carbon energy source has always been recognised, yet in previous assessments it has been impractical or overly expensive to roll out at scale. The report finds hydrogen could replace natural gas in parts of the energy system, where electrification is not feasible or is prohibitively expensive, for example in providing heat on colder winter days, industrial heat processes and for back-up power generation.

There remain significant obstacles to the decarbonisation of industry, transportation and heat, despite the advances arising from the UK’s focus on cleaning up electricity generation over the last decade. A combination of energy efficiency and the electrification of the economy can continue to reduce UK emissions substantially. However, this is not enough to reach full decarbonisation in every sector.

The report also makes it clear that hydrogen is not a ‘silver bullet’ solution and should ideally be considered in a supporting role in the reduction of carbon across all sectors. The report examines some common misconceptions, such as the impracticality of switching the gas grid to 100 per cent hydrogen; the prohibitive expense of producing bulk hydrogen from renewable electricity, and the fact that hydrogen from fossil fuels is not zero-carbon, even when using carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “Hydrogen has the potential to contribute to near-zero-carbon energy emissions if used strategically. The Government must now decide whether it wishes to develop a UK hydrogen option, taking decisions now that will see the first deployment in the 2020s.

“This must be in parallel with efforts to improve energy efficiency, build further low-cost renewables and get carbon capture and storage underway. The time for the Government to move from theory to practice has arrived.

“Most exciting of all is the prospect of producing low-carbon heat; using smart hybrid heat pumps in combination with natural gas in the short-term, with the potential for hydrogen in the long-term.

“The future now rests on Government making a quick decision and fully committing to low-carbon heat within the next three years. This is important to achieving the existing 2050 emissions target, but even more important as we consider whether it is possible for the UK to reach ‘net-zero’ emissions in the future.”

Hands-on review: NutriNinja BL580UKV personal blender with FreshVac

November 21st, 2018 no comment

The BL580UKV may call itself a personal blender, but it’s by no means small. It’s more imposing and at 600ml and 1100W has a higher fill capacity and much higher power than our benchmark MagicBullet. It comes with one set of blending blades, two identical cups and lids and a unique extra: a vacuum pump.

The battery-powered pump is used to suck air out of your cup just prior to blending. The idea is simple: removing the oxygen means ingredients oxidise less, which results in drinks that retain more nutrients, colour and flavour. The pump uses six AA batteries, or you can get a mains power supply that’s supplied separately.

After assembling ingredients, there’s a slightly protracted process. You need to attach the blades to the top of the cup then turn it over. The pump sits on top of the other end and you press a button to suck out the air. It’s quick and shuts off automatically when it’s done. Pop the pump off and you’re ready to blend.

We liked the blender’s two AutoIQ automatic programmes. There’s a self-explanatory one called ‘Smoothie’ while ‘Extract’ is designed for tough and fibrous fruit and veg.

One of the challenges with these powerful little blenders is that the motor can overheat, which causes two problems. First, this heat can warm up your drink and damage nutrients. Second, if you leave the motor running too long it can burn out. Bye-bye, blender!

The automatic programmes beat this problem by blending for a finite time, so you won’t get distracted and cook your smoothie. The Smoothie AutoIQ program takes just 50 seconds and uses a series of powerful pulses to break up even hard matter like ice cubes and frozen fruit in that time.

We made two identical fruit smoothies, using bananas, frozen blackberries, ice cubes, protein shake powder and milk. With one, we used the vacuum pump first, to evacuate air, and the other we did straight. Both were blended using the 50 second Smoothie program.

The vacuum-pumped one obviously took a bit more time. Screw on the blades, invert the cup and the pump sits comfortably in place, you don’t need to hold it. We found it only took 20 seconds to suck out the air.

After blending, the most significant visual difference was not the colour but the size of the smoothies. The one blended with air was at least 20 per cent bigger, because it was aerated. This affected the flavour far more than we’d anticipated. There was a pleasant, creamy mouthfeel (think fluffy McDonalds milkshake) but the flavour was quite light. 


Cut to the vacuumed smoothie: the texture was rich and creamy, more like yoghurt. The flavour was much stronger. Colour was not as different as anticipated, though. The air-free smoothie was arguably a little bit more purple but the difference wasn’t stark. If you made a smoothie hours before drinking it, you might see a more significant difference between the two.

The blender comes with two sippy lids for travel. You can also use a sippy lid in combination with the pump to introduce a vacuum for keeping the contents fresh. We found this less successful than the blending because it was let down by the lid design in two ways. First, the lid doesn’t have a flat top, so you can’t invert the cup and sit it nicely on the worktop to use the pump; it sits at a funny angle, which means you have to hold the pump in place. Second, the lid isn’t perfectly airtight: you have to screw it on tightly and double-check everything to get it sealed well enough for the pump to do its job properly.

Still, as food waste becomes a growing concern, vacuum preservation will surely become more popular. It would be good to see accessories that let you use the NutriNinja’s pump with food storage boxes and bags too.

All in all though, it’s a good smoothie blender with an extra trick up its sleeve that makes drinks tastier and maybe more nutritious, too.

£129.99 ninjakitchen.eu

Alternatives

NutriBullet Magic Bullet

Great value for a versatile little blender that makes smoothies and more. It only boasts 200W of power, so don’t expect it to puree leafy greens, but it’s tough enough to blend ice cubes for frozen drinks and it doesn’t take up too much counter space.

£39.99 highstreettv.com/nutribullet

Breville Blend Active ColourMix

This colourful 300W set serves up smoothies, milkshakes, slushies and even lets you add a splash of citrus. Make drinks for the whole family, with four different coloured sports bottles (two 600ml, two 300ml) so everyone knows whose drink is whose.

£39.99 breville.co.uk

NutriBullet Rx

Prescribing yourself a healthy diet for 2019? This 1700W blender features a cooking cycle that serves up healthy soups and hot sauces in just seven minutes. It makes all the usual smoothies too, with a large enough jug for the whole family.

from £129.99 highstreettv.com/nutribullet

Energy firms unlikely to meet 2020 smart meter deadline

November 19th, 2018 no comment

The firm said that the large suppliers would need to work around the clock, installing 30 smart meters per minute, every day, for the next two years, to fully replace the 46 million existing meters their customers have and meet their targets as part of the £11bn roll-out.

Smart meters have had a rocky rollout since the government set targets for their introduction. A shortage of installers, weak mobile network signals and interoperability problems are just some of the issues that have plagued efforts to bring the technology into UK homes.

The government wants energy firms to install smart meters in every home in England, Wales and Scotland by 2020 to give consumers more control over their energy usage.

But according to Which?’s analysis large suppliers are behind schedule, having installed more than 11 million smart meters to date, just a quarter (25 per cent) of the 46 million existing meters that could be replaced.

Energy suppliers have maintained that they will meet the 2020 target, but as the deadline draws closer, Which? said this is looking “increasingly unlikely”.

The government’s estimates for expected savings for an annual dual fuel bill in 2020 have already fallen from £26 to just £11.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “The smart meter rollout has been plagued by problems and been massively delayed, the benefits have been overstated and the savings they could bring consumers are at risk.

“Therefore it’s time for the government to replan with industry and consumer groups to ensure people get the maximum benefit at the minimum cost.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government remained committed to its smart meter target: “Millions have already chosen to have a smart meter and take control of their energy use to cut their bills,” he said.

The spokesperson argued an £11 reduction in annual fuel bills was “not insignificant”, representing £300m of savings in 2020 alone.

Up to 53 million smart meters, that will replace traditional electricity and gas meters in homes and businesses, are due to be installed across Britain by the end of 2020.

Large energy suppliers, those with 250,000 customers or more, are responsible for rolling out 46 million meters but Which?’s research suggests installation rates are slowing down.

A spokesman for Energy UK, which represents the energy industry, said suppliers were committed to ensuring all eligible households and businesses are offered a smart meter by the deadline date.

“The industry is working hard to reach as many customers as possible and to ensure the roll-out is carried out safely, efficiently, cost-effectively and delivers a positive experience for customers,” he said. “With more than 12 million smart meters now installed in the UK, more and more customers are enjoying the benefits that smart meters bring and are reporting high levels of satisfaction.”

Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB, which runs the public awareness campaign for the smart meter roll-out, said: “Britain’s smart meter roll-out is a vital upgrade for the nation’s energy infrastructure.

“Smart meters are crucial if we want to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.”

SpaceX gets regulatory nod to launch 7000+ satellites

November 16th, 2018 no comment

A satellite constellation is a system of multiple satellites working together for certain purposes (normally telecommunications). A constellation of satellites provides far more effective coverage of the Earth’s surface than individual satellites.

SpaceX began development on its Starlink satellite constellation project in 2015; this project aimed to mass produce and launch nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit to provide complete worldwide broadband connectivity, including to underserved regions and raise funds for more ambitious projects. Musk has said he hopes to have the Starlink constellation in operation by the mid-2020s. The company successfully launched two prototype satellites in test flights earlier this year and the first batch of Starlink satellites is due to launch in 2019.

In March, the FCC approved plans to deploy the first 4425 satellites. Now, the federal regulator has approved plans to launch a further 7518 satellites into very low-Earth orbit of approximately 350km. This proximity to the Earth’s surface will shorten transmission paths, reducing delay and requiring less powerful signals. The satellites will operate using V-band frequencies (radio frequencies of 40-75GHz), rather than the more standard K-band frequencies (radio frequencies of 12-40GHz).

“The Commission’s action provides SpaceX with addition flexibility to provide both diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users in the United States and globally,” an FCC statement said.

The FCC has also approved satellite launches for satellite constellations planned by Telesat, LeoSat and Kepler, although these other companies had proposed fewer than 150 satellite launches each.

Appropriately, the FCC announcement coincided with the launch its first major review into the handling of space debris since 2004; a 2011 report by the National Research Council warned the quantity of space debris is at a “tipping point” and called for international regulations to tackle the problem, which poses a serious threat to essential space-based infrastructure.

“We’re proposing new rules and disclosures to mitigate the threat posed by orbital debris,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “Indeed, we’re exploring six ways to address this problem, including changes in satellite design, better disposal procedures, and active collision avoidance.”

Major space agencies, including Nasa and ESA, are already engaged in efforts to capture existing space debris, while space companies are increasingly considering how satellites nearing the end of their useful lifetimes may be cleared from orbit.

Draft Brexit agreement confirms UK would leave Euratom

November 15th, 2018 no comment

Although much detail relating to the UK’s future scientific and industrial relationships with the EU has not yet been thrashed out, the 585-page draft document contains hints that some fears about the impact of Brexit on UK science may not be fully realised.

Leading figures in UK science have been highly critical of the decision to withdraw from the EU, and warned that uncertainties regarding European research funding and free movement of researchers (on which many research projects rely) could severely damage both UK and European science. In October, 29 Nobel laureates signed a letter calling on Brexit negotiators to reach a deal which protects research, while a survey of scientists at the Francis Crick Institute – Europe’s largest biomedical laboratory – found that 51 per cent were less likely to stay in the UK following Brexit.

Although detail remains limited, the documentation released so far suggests that visa-free short visits may be possible between the UK and EU. This could allow researchers to continue to attend international conferences but does not provide reassurances about concerns over their free movement and partaking in long-term research projects.

EU citizens currently resident in the UK could – according to this proposed form of Brexit – apply for permanent residence, potentially allowing European scientists based at UK institutions to remain at work in the UK if they chose to do so.

The future of UK participation in the Horizon research-funding programmes will be determined at a later date. The government has previously pledged to provide any outstanding funding for UK researchers in receipt of Horizon 2020 grants, in order that those research projects may be completed. It is likely that the UK will apply for “associate” status for future Horizon programmes (currently held by Israel, Switzerland, Norway and several other countries), which would allow UK researchers to access research funding in the exchange for the UK contributing to the programmes.

Meanwhile, there have been concerns that the UK’s withdrawal from the European nuclear regulator (Euratom) prior to the agreement of new arrangements could have a severely negative impact on the UK nuclear industry, particularly with regards to safeguarding for civil nuclear power.

The document is titled: “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community”, confirming that under this agreement, the UK would withdraw from Euratom when it leaves the EU. Euratom is formally independent of the EU, but all full members of Euratom must also be EU member states, and the organisation is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The agreement reasserts promises made by the government in a statement in December 2017 that the UK will become responsible for maintaining international nuclear safeguards following Brexit, while new agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency will replace existing UK-Euratom agreements.

“The [UK] shall have sole responsibility for ensuring that all ores, source materials and special fissile materials covered by the Euratom Treaty and present on the territory of the [UK] at the end of the transition period are handled in accordance with relevant and application international treaties and conventions, including but not limited to international treaties and conventions on nuclear safety,” the agreement states.

The agreement also confirms that at the end of the transition period, the UK government must reimburse the EU the value of Euratom equipment, such as special fissile material, located in the UK (at Sellafield, Dounreay, Sizewell, Capenhurst and Springfields). This equipment will then become UK property.

The agreement does not specify how the UK will continue to interact with some Euratom projects, such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, which is the world’s largest nuclear fusion experiment. The future of funding for the Joint European Torus – a massive plasma physics experiment based in Oxfordshire – remains uncertain.

A vote on the draft withdrawal agreement is expected before the end of the year.

Draft Brexit agreement confirms UK would leave Euratom

November 15th, 2018 no comment

Although much detail relating to the UK’s future scientific and industrial relationships with the EU has not yet been thrashed out, the 585-page draft document contains hints that some fears about the impact of Brexit on UK science may not be fully realised.

Leading figures in UK science have been highly critical of the decision to withdraw from the EU, and warned that uncertainties regarding European research funding and free movement of researchers (on which many research projects rely) could severely damage both UK and European science. In October, 29 Nobel laureates signed a letter calling on Brexit negotiators to reach a deal which protects research, while a survey of scientists at the Francis Crick Institute – Europe’s largest biomedical laboratory – found that 51 per cent were less likely to stay in the UK following Brexit.

Although detail remains limited, the documentation released so far suggests that visa-free short visits may be possible between the UK and EU. This could allow researchers to continue to attend international conferences but does not provide reassurances about concerns over their free movement and partaking in long-term research projects.

EU citizens currently resident in the UK could – according to this proposed form of Brexit – apply for permanent residence, potentially allowing European scientists based at UK institutions to remain at work in the UK if they chose to do so.

The future of UK participation in the Horizon research-funding programmes will be determined at a later date. The government has previously pledged to provide any outstanding funding for UK researchers in receipt of Horizon 2020 grants, in order that those research projects may be completed. It is likely that the UK will apply for “associate” status for future Horizon programmes (currently held by Israel, Switzerland, Norway and several other countries), which would allow UK researchers to access research funding in the exchange for the UK contributing to the programmes.

Meanwhile, there have been concerns that the UK’s withdrawal from the European nuclear regulator (Euratom) prior to the agreement of new arrangements could have a severely negative impact on the UK nuclear industry, particularly with regards to safeguarding for civil nuclear power.

The document is titled: “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community”, confirming that under this agreement, the UK would withdraw from Euratom when it leaves the EU. Euratom is formally independent of the EU, but all full members of Euratom must also be EU member states, and the organisation is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The agreement reasserts promises made by the government in a statement in December 2017 that the UK will become responsible for maintaining international nuclear safeguards following Brexit, while new agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency will replace existing UK-Euratom agreements.

“The [UK] shall have sole responsibility for ensuring that all ores, source materials and special fissile materials covered by the Euratom Treaty and present on the territory of the [UK] at the end of the transition period are handled in accordance with relevant and application international treaties and conventions, including but not limited to international treaties and conventions on nuclear safety,” the agreement states.

The agreement also confirms that at the end of the transition period, the UK government must reimburse the EU the value of Euratom equipment, such as special fissile material, located in the UK (at Sellafield, Dounreay, Sizewell, Capenhurst and Springfields). This equipment will then become UK property.

The agreement does not specify how the UK will continue to interact with some Euratom projects, such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, which is the world’s largest nuclear fusion experiment. The future of funding for the Joint European Torus – a massive plasma physics experiment based in Oxfordshire – remains uncertain.

A vote on the draft withdrawal agreement is expected before the end of the year.