Office for Civil Nuclear Safety (OCNS)

New and revised pages about the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) have been added to the HSE Nuclear website. 

Pages include:

  • Who OCNS are
  • Who OCNS regulate
  • How OCNS regulate
  • OCNS legislation and guidance
  • Import Licensing
  • Contact OCNS

History of the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS)

The Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) originated in the early 1950s as the Atomic Energy Security Branch, which later became the UKAEA Corporate Security Directorate. During the 1980s and 1990s, elements of the UKAEA diverged to form British Nuclear Fuels and the Atomic Energy Authority Technology. As a result, the Corporate Security Directorate became the Directorate of Civil Nuclear Security which retained the authority to act across the industry even though its staff remained UKAEA employees.

In the late 1990s, it was recognised that the civil nuclear industries’ regulatory framework was not as robust as it should be and that the security regulator for the civil nuclear industry should be truly independent. Consequently the Office for Civil Nuclear Security was formed in October 2001 as an independent security regulator within the then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). At the same time, work was initiated to modernise the legislative basis on which it conducted its regulatory activity. This work was given a higher and more urgent profile following the 9/11 attacks in the USA. The aim of this work was to produce a modern, comprehensive and effective regulatory system which was achieved with the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003.

On 1 April 2007, OCNS transferred from the DTI and merged with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Nuclear Safety Directorate (NSD) to become a part of the Nuclear Directorate (ND) of the HSE. OCNS is now Division 5 of the ND. This transfer took account of Section13 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and OCNS responsibilities have been incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding between the HSE and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (formerly DTI).

The merger was prompted by a number of factors. Routine cooperation between OCNS and NSD had emphasised the need for both security and safety bodies to consult and inform each other. In terms of providing the civil nuclear industry with a consistent and coherent regulatory message, the case was growing for greater and closer cooperation between the safety and security regulators and with the changes in the industry prompted by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and possibly new build, these pressures could not be ignored. This merger has brought the UK’s regulatory structures in the civil nuclear industry into line with those of our international partners and it sits well with the Hampton Review recommendations concerning better regulation.

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