ONR outlines compliance with Regulators' Code

29 May 2018

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has provided an update on its compliance with the Regulators' Code, which came into effect in April 2014 and aims to provide a framework for how regulators should engage with those they regulate.

ONR published a review of its compliance with the Code in 2015 and has since carried out a further self-assessment exercise on progress against the actions from that initial review.

"In the UK, we have a goal-setting framework for regulation of the nuclear sector which places accountability clearly on duty holders to achieve the high standards of safety and security required," ONR said.

"Reflecting on our experience of regulating in accordance with the Code we generally found, as in 2015, that our regulatory framework allows us to regulate according to the high standards expected while also operating in accordance with the Code. However, we are not complacent and following this self-assessment exercise we have identified further improvements that we can make to better align our activity with themes in the Code, while also supporting our broader desire to continuously improve."

Following the publication of its review in 2015, the ONR Board commissioned a review of the economic impact of its regulation on industry duty holders, tasking NERA Economic Consulting with examining the economic impact of ONR's civil nuclear safety regulation.

"From the outset, we were clear that any consideration of cost crucially depends on the circumstances and there are clearly instances, such as meeting fundamental nuclear safety principles or established relevant good practices, where we will not entertain arguments that such measures are too costly. We also asserted that our existing guidance reflects a willingness, where appropriate, to take account of costs during engagement with duty holders," ONR said.

NERA's report, The economic impact of ONR safety regulation, noted that ONR was an "impressive regulator", and highlighted a number of positive findings, including its current regulatory strategy for Sellafield and the Generic Design Assessment process. It also concluded there was scope for further improvement. In its response to NERA's report, which was completed in November 2016 and revised in August and December last year, ONR set out its intended actions to address its recommendations.

"Overall we believe that NERA's report, and the positive engagement with the authors, has enabled us to identify a number of real improvement measures in terms of our awareness of, and approach to, our economic impact on the industry we regulate. Ensuring a safe and secure nuclear industry will always be our overriding priority and we are robust in upholding the law, using our regulatory enforcement powers wherever necessary. Any actions identified in response to NERA's report are consistent with this priority," ONR said.

Five potential areas for ONR's consideration NERA identified were: encouraging more external comment and comparisons; more effective promotion and monitoring of the Enabling Regulation initiative; improving ONR's knowledge of the costs imposed by regulatory decisions; the use of economic advice in the framing and assessment of some issues; and refinement of its current guidance on 'so far as is reasonably practicable' and gross disproportion.

ONR said that, overall, it believes its activity "aligns well" with the Regulators' Code themes, which it summarised as regulators should: carry out their activities in a way that supports those they regulate to comply and grow; provide simple and straightforward ways to engage with those they regulate and hear their views; base their regulatory activities on risk; share information about compliance and risk; ensure clear information, guidance and advice is available to help those they regulate meet their responsibilities to comply; and ensure that their approach to their regulatory activities is transparent.

"In particular our regulatory framework and enabling approach embrace proportionality, our approach with other regulators is highly collaborative, and the publication of our staff guidance for inspection and assessment provides a good basis for openness and transparency," ONR said.

There have also been a number of significant improvements to its regulatory regime in recent years, it noted, such as the introduction of the Security Assessment Principles and publication of its Risk Informed Decision Making guidance.

A further update on ONR's compliance with the Code will be published in 2020 to coincide with the end of its current strategy covering 2015-2020.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News