UK nuclear power stations ‘could be forced to close’ after Brexit

Leaving Euratom treaty will shut down nuclear industry if international safety agreements are not made in time, MPs told

Nuclear power stations would be forced to shut down if a new measures are not in place when Britain quits a European atomic power treaty in 2019, an expert has warned.

Rupert Cowen, a senior nuclear energy lawyer at Prospect Law, told MPs on Tuesday that leaving the Euratom treaty as the government has promised could see trade in nuclear fuel grind to a halt.

The UK government has said it will exit Euratom when article 50 is triggered. The treaty promotes cooperation and research into nuclear power, and uniform safety standards.

Unlike other arrangements, if we dont get this right, business stops. There will be no trade. If we cant arrive at safeguards and other principles that allow compliance [with international nuclear standards] to be demonstrated, no nuclear trade will be able to continue.

Asked by the chair of the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee if that would see reactors switching off, he said: Ultimately, when their fuels runs out, yes. Cowen said that in his view there was no legal requirement for the UK to leave Euratom because of Brexit: Its a political issue, not a legal issue.

The UK nuclear industry would be crippled if new nuclear cooperation deals are not agreed within two years, a former government adviser told the committee.

Euratom explainer

There is a plethora of international agreements that would have to be struck that almost mirror those in place with Euratom, before we moved not just material but intellectual property, services, anything in the nuclear sector. We would be crippled without other things in place, said Dame Sue Ion, chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which was established by the government in 2013.

She said movement of the industrys best intellectual talent was made easier by the UKs membership of Euratom.

The government said it was working on alternative arrangements to Euratom. Describing the notification of withdrawal as a regrettable necessity when article 50 is triggered, energy minister Jesse Norman said that the UK saw clear routes outside of Euratom to address issues such as the trade of nuclear materials.

We take this extremely seriously and are devoting serious resources [to looking at new arrangements], he told the Lords science and technology committee on Tuesday.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said there was a lot to be done to put in place transitional measures replacing Euratom.

What were collectively warning about is the potential for there to be a very hard two-year period during which there are lots of other things the government has to deal with, that could leave it in a position where some of these things arent in place, he said. Greatrex said one possible option was an associate membership of Euratom.

Over the weekend, the GMB union called on ministers to reconsider their foolhardy rush to leave the treaty, claiming it could endanger the UKs entire nuclear future.

But the Office for Nuclear Regulation argued there could even be be some positives to leaving Euratom, such as a reduction in bureaucracy. If we relinquish Euratom there would be reduced burden from not having to comply with directives, said David Senior, an ONR executive.

Norman also promised a decision was due soon on the next stage of a delayed multimillion-pound government competition for mini nuclear reactors, known as small modular reactors. I love the projects and ideas but I want to be shown the value, he told the peers.

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Republicans brace for Trump’s prime-time message on Obamacare

Washington (CNN)For Republicans eager to dismantle Obamacare, President Donald Trump’s prime-time address to Congress Tuesday night is shaping up as a high-stakes proposition.

More than five weeks after Inauguration Day, Trump is set to deliver a speech that lays out his vision for the country and highlights his most urgent policy priorities. Trump has said that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act is at the top of his agenda — but so far, his public remarks about overhauling the health care system have proved to be a mixed bag for fellow Republicans.


On Monday, on the eve of his joint address to Congress, Trump was characteristically blunt. “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said about health care reform during a meeting with governors. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
The comments acknowledged the myriad of problems GOP leaders have confronted in their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“It’s complicated. In fact, it’s almost impossible, but we’ll figure it out,” said GOP Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to see Trump offer more specifics on health care — and publicly back the House GOP plan, sources tell CNN.

Explore Trump’s progress on key campaign promises

During a meeting at the White House on Monday, Ryan was given the impression that the administration is embracing much of the House GOP plan on Obamacare and that the President will make that clear in his speech.
This should help reassure House Republican leaders and their aides, some of whom had been growing increasingly concerned by the President’s unwillingness to embrace — or, many believe, fully understand — the congressional approach to health care.
If Trump doesn’t better articulate his support for their plan, “it is in trouble,” a GOP Hill aide said earlier in the week.
“This is a critical moment for him to get behind this,” another senior Republican congressional aide said.
Top Republicans have been slowed down by numerous intra-party disagreements, including over how much of the health care law to repeal and how fast.
Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus Chairman, told CNN Monday that he would not support a draft of the House GOP leadership’s repeal bill that was leaked last week. Rep. Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, announced his opposition hours later. A widespread defection within the conservative wing of the party could tank the party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare altogether.
Republicans are hoping that Trump will seize Tuesday night’s closely watched speech to send a unifying message on Obamacare.


“I would expect that this will be a speech that doesn’t have a lot of specifics, but continues to emphasize the President’s agenda,” said Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.
Trump told governors Monday that his speech is going to focus heavily on security and less on the specifics of health care.
“The President said today that his speech is going to be focused on defense, so I obviously take him at his word,” Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said. “What he did tell us today is Secretary Price is going to be coming up with some type of plan in the next few weeks.”

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Van Jones on Trump: ‘He became President of the United States in that moment, period’

(CNN)Shortly after President Donald Trump addressed a Joint Session of Congress for the first time since taking the oath of office, CNN’s Van Jones called one particularly moving moment from the speech the real estate mogul’s most presidential to date.

Less than an hour after Trump honored the widow of a slain NAVY Seal, the Democratic commentator suggested that the commander in chief had officially begun to look the part.
“He became President of the United States in that moment, period,” said Jones, after the evening’s most emotional point was replayed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics,” Jones added.
The exchange the group was referring to centered around Trump recognizing Carryn Owens, whose husband Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed in Yemen.
Noting that he still often disagrees with the President, Jones admitted that Trump’s powerful moment shows he may be settling into the role.
“If he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years,” Jones said.
Moments after Jones’ remarks, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to Cooper, and had this to say: “I find myself in agreement with Van Jones, for the first time in my political life.”

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Conservatives say they’re tired of seeing Obamacare drafts via leaks

Washington (CNN)More than 20 members of the House Freedom Caucus huddled over Panera dinners Monday night in a Rayburn office building committee room to talk about their greatest emerging concern: the House GOP leadership’s trajectory to dismantle Obamacare.

After a draft of the House bill to repeal Obamacare leaked Friday, conservatives have had ongoing concerns about how leadership is structuring refundable tax credits and Medicaid expansion among other items. But they are also upset about how few details they feel they are getting from their leaders.
According to a source in the room, a Republican member said what others were thinking: instead of learning about the drafted legislation in conference, they were learning about it from places like CNN or Politico, which first obtained the draft legislation.
“We’re hearing about all of this secretly… We’re hearing about the leaks,” Virginia Republican Rep. David Brat told CNN.
Lawmakers across the board have been emboldened to speak out against their leadership’s plans. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told CNN that he would vote against the draft. North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Walker, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said in a statement he wouldn’t accept the “current path” the Republican leadership appeared to be on.
Leaders have reiterated that the draft in question was old and no longer “viable” but there is growing fear among conservatives, that the leaked draft incident reveals a bigger problem: leadership is hiding the ball on how exactly they will repeal the Affordable Care Act. As members rely on Power Point presentations and bullet points, the media is reporting on behind the scenes progress they are in the dark about.
“They aren’t being as open as they should be,” said North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones. “At some point in time, they will have to be totally, totally sunshine.”
As part of the legislative process, members routinely send drafts of legislation to the Congressional Budget Office to get a sense of how a bill will affect the budget. But members say they’d like to know that is the progress that has been made instead of reading about it in the news.
“We didn’t even know it was being scored,” Brat said. “No one announced there was a score.”

How powerful are the conservatives?

Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has been a top agenda item for Republicans for seven years now, and House conservatives are determined to have a major say in the path forward. After years of watching their efforts wither in the Senate or be vetoed by former President Barack Obama, conservatives don’t want to temper their efforts.
What is unclear now is how much power they really have in Trump’s Washington.
“I think there is going to be a big surprise when folks find out that a lot of people aren’t willing to to do more socialism. It didn’t work the first time around, and I don’t think we want our reputations voting for round two of what just failed,” Brat said.
Republican leaders insist that their proposals are conservative and the same ideas members of the House Freedom Caucus have been rallying around for years.
House Speaker Paul Ryan Tuesday said the plan under consideration is similar to one former Rep. Tom Price — now Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services — worked on previously.
“The Price Plan was considered the conservative gold standard at the time last year. Many conservatives co-sponsored that plan. That plan looks a lot like what we’re working on right now,” Ryan told reporters.
A senior House GOP leadership aide insisted that the White House and congressional Republicans are all on the same page.
“So I haven’t seen any vote totals on any of this so we’ll continue to work forward. We still have a lot of work to do, but at the end of the day we’ve got to repeal Obamacare,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady.
It’s not that Republican leaders haven’t tried to keep members in the loop. Key leaders hosted a series of listening sessions on Obamacare taxes and Medicaid reform before members left for the February recess. And leaders announced Tuesday that they plan to host two more listening sessions this week. But, conservatives say the sessions aren’t really a substitute for actual legislative text.
“Truthfully, I went to two listening sessions last week. I’m going to try to go to the two this week and all I could think about was this is a hell of a lot more complex than I thought,” Jones said.

Moderates unhappy as well

It’s not just the conservative wing of the GOP that leadership has to contend with.
Rep. Tom MacArthur, a co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, said he and his colleagues are watching closely, but it is “too soon” to weigh in on whether he could support draft legislation.
“The details on what will help the people in the individual marketplace to be able to afford decent insurance is still too murky for me to weigh in on, but I’m going to be looking at that very carefully,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s premature to weigh in on a leaked, in-process document.”
Republican schisms over Obamacare are nothing new, but they seem to be especially pronounced just hours ahead of Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. While leaders expect the President to endorse some key elements of the Obamacare repeal and replace, conservatives are hoping that Trump doesn’t.
“I hope they do not go along with this plan,” Brat said. “I don’t want them adding their weight to that plan.”
No matter what, expect the debate to continue, one veteran lawmaker said.
Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers, the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he wasn’t too worried the GOP discord over Obamacare would ultimately doom the outcome.
“It’s Congress,” he said. “The product has not yet gelled and this is going to go on for awhile.”

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Trump administration nixes informal talks with North Korea

Washington Informal talks scheduled for next week between a North Korean delegation and a team of former US officials were canceled Friday after the Trump administration withdrew its initial approval of the North Koreans’ visas, two people who had planned to participate said.

The back-channel talks were to be held in New York between the US experts and a six-member team of North Koreans led by Choe Son-hui, the director of the American affairs bureau of the country’s foreign ministry.
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Donald Zagoria, the head of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, an advocacy group that was organizing the talks, emailed participants Friday morning to say next week’s meeting would proceed as scheduled after receiving assurances that the visas would be granted, the two participants said.
But hours later, Zagoria sent a follow-up email to the group saying the visas were not approved and the talks were off.
The last-minute withdrawal of the approval of the visas came hours after the Malaysian government announced that VX nerve agent was used to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on February 13 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport as he waited to board a flight to Macau. The extremely toxic chemical is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.


Although no currently serving American officials were scheduled to take part in the meeting, it would have signaled a potential for future progress if the Trump administration would have approved the visas. The American participants would also have briefed the administration on the discussions.
“It would have signaled a new start and suggest the Trump administration was more open to discussion,” one of the participants said. “In that sense there could have been a little movement.
Additionally, had the informal talks gone forward, North Korea might have tempered its usually bellicose reaction to the annual joint military drills between the US and South Korea, set to begin next month, the sources said.
But they stressed that such a development “wouldn’t have necessarily been a springboard” for the resumption of the six-nation disarmament talks.
A State Department spokesperson would only say, “The U.S. government had no plans to engage in track 2 talks in New York. We do not discuss details of individual visa cases.”

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Navy secretary nominee withdraws

(CNN)President Donald Trump’s nominee for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Bilden said in a statement he informed Defense Secretary James Mattis of his decision.
In the statement Bilden, a financier, cited his financial holdings as the reason, saying “after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”
Bilden recently retired as a co-founding member of a global equity investment management firm.
Bilden is the second service secretary nominee to withdraw from consideration. Army secretary nominee Vincent Viola withdrew earlier this month saying he would have trouble disengaging with his business ties.
Developing story – more to come

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Spicer cracks down on White House leaks

(CNN)White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently checked his aides’ cell phones to ensure they weren’t communicating with reporters as part of an aggressive effort to stem the recent tide of White House leaks.

Spicer called staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the leaks, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, was a violation of the Federal Records Act.
Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.
Spicer asked to review both his staff’s government-issued and personal cell phones, the sources said. He also specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media, one source said.
The meeting, which Politico first reported, comes as the White House increases security measures to address President Donald Trump’s anger over leaks from administration officials and staffers.
Spicer, who declined to comment on the meeting, was particularly frustrated with the fact that the decision to appoint Mike Dubke as White House communications director, which CNN first reported, was leaked to the press a week earlier, the sources said. Spicer and Dubke are friends, and Spicer had backed his appointment.

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