In 2008, the Government commissioned a major review into the UK’s nuclear regulatory regime . This review was conducted by Dr Tim Stone, senior adviser on nuclear new build to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury.
Dr Stone made a number of recommendations, which included the need to restructure what was the nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear Directorate (ND). He proposed the creation of a new, sector-specific regulator for the nuclear industry – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
Pending the relevant legislation to create ONR as a statutory corporation, and in the interim, the Health and Safety Executive has taken steps to establish ONR as a non-statutory body from 1 April 2011, signalling the commitment to securing an appropriately resourced and responsive regulator for the future challenges of the nuclear sector.
How will the proposed new regulatory body work?
The Office for Nuclear Regulation absorbs all the elements of what was ND – the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) and the UK Safeguards Office (UKSO). From 1st July 2011, it will also include the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Radioactive Materials Transport Team, which is the part of the DfT’s Dangerous Goods Division that deals with regulating the transportation of radioactive material.
Following this move, ONR will:
- strengthen, focus and improve the organisational framework of nuclear regulation in the UK
- ensure greater accountability, transparency and efficiency of regulatory processes
- continue with ongoing decommissioning work and the active management of ‘legacy’ nuclear plants, including high-hazard facilities
- assess and advise on plans for potential new nuclear power stations and oversee their subsequent licensing, construction, operation and decommissioning
- have greater awareness of the impact of more private sector involvement in the UK and the entry of new players into the UK market, particularly from overseas
- have the freedom to set its own budgets, produce long-term strategy and annual business plans
When fully operational as a statutory corporation, ONR will be an autonomous organisation, legally separated from, but still supported by, the HSE.
The Framework under which ONR will operate as an agency within the wider HSE and constitutes the authority for the conduct of its operations.