UK addresses regulator funds for safeguards role

12 February 2018

Richard Harrington, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), has given notice of the department's intention to seek an advance from the Contingencies Fund to provide financial cover to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

BEIS published draft nuclear safeguards regulations on 19 January, setting out the nuclear safeguards regime for the UK and the powers of the BEIS secretary of state to make regulations under the Nuclear Safeguards Bill. Nuclear safeguards are distinct from nuclear safety (the prevention of nuclear accidents) and nuclear security (physical protection measures), which are the subject of their own regulatory regimes. The regulations provide for the role of the ONR in nuclear safeguards. In general, their activities are governed by the Energy Act 2013, but the regulations set out some additional provisions including inspections, publication of information, provision of information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), communication with the IAEA on the issue of derogations, and the characterisation of material, for example, as waste.

The cash advance of GBP 2,275,000 ($3,143,211) for the 2017/18 fiscal year is to enable ONR to establish a new domestic civil nuclear safeguards regime ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union and Euratom on 29 March 2019. The work necessary includes recruitment and training of additional safeguards officers and installation of a new safeguards IT system.

"ONR has already begun some preparatory work to deliver the regime but requires this cash advance to move to its next phase of project implementation which includes financial commitments towards recruitment and asset purchases, to be able to deliver the regime ahead of day 1 of exit," Harrington wrote in the ministerial statement to parliament on 2 February.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of GBP 2,275,000 for this new service will be sought in an estimate for BEIS. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at GBP 2,275,000 will be met via repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund. The cash advance will be repaid upon receiving Royal Assent for the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and the Supply and Appropriation Bill.

ONR's funding is provided predominantly by charges to the nuclear industry and an element of grant funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). In the period 2016/17, ONR was funded by cost recovery from duty-holders (96%) and a grant from DWP (4%). Under the Energy Act 2013, ONR makes a full cost recovery for certain chargeable services and receives grant funding for the non-chargeable activities such as safeguards inspection. The grant made available to ONR by DWP to cover existing statutory activities for which ONR cannot charge industry is reviewed annually to ensure adequate funding is in place, should requirements change.

In a previous statement to parliament on 23 January, Harrington said: "We have been transparent about the costs and resources required to set up a domestic civil nuclear safeguards regime. In October 2017, we published estimates of what those costs will be in the explanatory notes to the Bill. The relevant section, 'Financial implications of the Bill', explains that the department will allocate the necessary funding to the ONR - about GBP 10 million to set up the regime, and ongoing costs of about GBP 10 million a year. I assure the House that we are keeping the estimates under review as the details of the regime develop."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News