The UK government has formally announced that it intends to set up a new independent statutory body to regulate nuclear power in the UK, taking over regulatory functions currently performed under the auspices of two different bodies.
Pending legislation, the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is taking steps to establish the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) as a non-statutory body from 1 April 2011. The ONR would be a new independent regulator, formally responsible in law for delivering its regulatory functions. According to a written statement released by UK minister for employment Chris Grayling, ONR would take on the relevant regulatory functions currently carried out by the HSE and the UK Department for Transport.
The new regulator will absorb all the elements of the HSE's current Nuclear Directorate - the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) and the UK Safeguards Office (UKSO). It will also include the Department for Transport's Radioactive Materials Transport Team which deals with regulating the transportation of radioactive material.
The ONR will be an autonomous organisation supported by the HSE with its own board and legal identity, which the HSE says will strengthen, focus and improve the organisational framework of nuclear regulation in the UK, and ensure greater accountability, transparency and efficiency of regulatory processes. When fully operational, the proposed ONR will be legally separated from, but still supported by, the HSE.
With the prospect of a program of new nuclear construction as well as existing nuclear power plants, decommissioning projects and so-called legacy plants, the need for nuclear regulation in the UK to be streamlined has been recognised for some time. A review of the country's nuclear regulatory regime exploring ways of enhancing its transparency and efficiency whilst maintaining its effectiveness was carried out by Dr Tim Stone, a senior adviser on nuclear new build, at the behest of the UK government in 2008. One of the recommendations of the Stone Report was the establishment of a new, sector-specific regulator for the nuclear industry, and after consultation, draft legislation setting out the proposals for the creation of the ONR was published in March 2010.
Legislation to establish the ONR must now pass through the parliamentary process, but by setting up the office as a non-statutory body in the meantime the government is "signalling our commitment to securing an appropriately resourced and responsive regulator for the future challenges of the nuclear sector," according to the ministerial statement. The government will also review the functions and processes of the interim body "in order to inform its planned legislation."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News