Autumn 2011 brings statutory and other planned outages for a number of operating nuclear power stations, which means a busy period for ONR inspectors, who are keeping a close regulatory eye on proceedings.
So far Sizewell B, Heysham 2, Wylfa and Hinkley Point B with Hartlepool and Dungeness have all entered outage periods, with Hunterston B having already undergone its statutory outage and returning to service in September.
“Statutory outages are required under nuclear site licence conditions , which require licensees to shut down periodically to undertake examination, maintenance and testing, whilst planned outages can be for particular maintenance or refuelling, for example,” explained HM Superintending Inspector, Andy Lindley.
“Licensees take the opportunity to undertake upgrades and modifications in addition to inspections, all of which involves a huge amount of ONR inspectors’ time,” he added. “So a great deal of discussion takes place with the licensees to understand what they wish to do, and to understand what ONR needs to do to ensure the correct level of regulatory oversight is applied.”
The numbers of licensee and contractor personnel that are on site during an outage increases dramatically, which makes the site a busy place to be and increases the need for good dialogue with licensees and the licensees’ own internal regulators to make sure safety and security are the highest priority.
“I think we’ve managed that well, which is testament to the good, frank regulatory relationship we have with licensees,” added Andy. “It’s in everyone’s interests that work on nuclear power stations is carried out safely, to the regulator’s expectations.”