UK regulator outlines plan to 'remain fit for future'

07 July 2017

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has presented four key targets in its corporate plan for 2017/2018 published yesterday. It has also published its annual report and accounts for 2016/2017, in which its chairman describes the "significant change" the organisation has been through, both at board and management level, "to ensure we remain fit for the future".

ONR, which became a Public Corporation three years ago, is an independent body, accountable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to governance, finance and conventional health and safety issues. It is governed by a ten-strong independent board, which supports the work of 564 staff based in Liverpool, Cheltenham and London.

The four targets it has outlined are: support the UK government in managing a smooth exit from Euratom, particularly in relation to nuclear safeguards arrangements, and regarding potential small modular reactor deployment in the UK; address long-standing issues across the defence portfolio, with three sites under enhanced regulatory attention and preparation for the successor Dreadnought submarine program; assist the Health and Safety Executive and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the implementation of European Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom, laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, through the introduction of revised Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and Emergency Planning regulations; manage appropriate changes to its safeguarding scope, due to the UK's decision to leave Euratom.

"ONR is the custodian of a substantial regulatory program that stretches decades into the future," it says in the report. "To support delivery of this, we will develop our organisation for the long term in a way that is mindful of our cost impact and optimises our effectiveness."

It adds: "With collective passion for our mission, determination to develop ONR capability for the long term and a staff team that is the envy of the world, we are confident that ONR will remain a positive influence on nuclear safety and security at home and abroad."

As well as delivering its "demanding regulatory program", it will focus on its performance and sustainability, through a two- to three-year program, it said. This year, it will focus on modernising its approach "to get the best out of our staff", and it intends to improve its approach to "knowledge management". This means taking the opportunity to review its operational business processes, seeking to become "more joined up and efficient", it says. Over the next two years, it intends to become more efficient through enhanced IT and estates management. This will need strong corporate leadership by the executive management team to modernise ONR, and by the regulatory management team, which has a "particular role in connecting regulatory operations with strategic direction and demands, and optimising the key elements of technical expertise and management capability", it says.

For this year, ONR listed five goals. Two of these are to address "some of the world's most challenging nuclear scenarios", such as Sellafield, and an ageing operating fleet that supplied about 18% of the UK's energy in 2016. Thirdly, to assess three new reactor designs, the AP1000, UK ABWR and UK HPR1000, which are due for deployment at four sites. The EPR reactor which has already been design assessed is due to be deployed at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. In total, these are anticipated to provide over 16 GWe of electricity through the construction of 13 reactors on six sites. Fourthly, to regulate one new reactor licensee and organisations that have different governance, different experience of nuclear regulation and different reactor designs. Finally, to implement outcome-based security regulation.

Response to challenges

In the annual report, ONR Chairman Nick Baldwin said the past year had been "yet another challenging one for ONR on many fronts".

The board has overseen ONR's response to recent government decisions giving the go-ahead for the design and construction of a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point C and to a successor class of submarine, Baldwin said. Alongside this, ONR has been making provision for the impact on nuclear regulation arising from the Referendum decision last June to withdraw from the European Union and, as a result, from the Euratom Treaty, "whilst continuing to regulate nuclear safety, security and conventional health and safety at licensed nuclear sites across Great Britain to ensure the industry operates safely and securely", he added.

Other achievements of note include, he said: continuing significant improvements, for example at Sellafield, reducing public hazard; recent publication of new Security Assessment Principles (SyAPs) now aligned with ONR's approach to safety regulation by placing the onus on dutyholders to deliver defined security outcomes whilst allowing greater flexibility of approach and encouraging innovation in security solutions; its contribution to meeting the UK's international obligations, for example, reporting on behalf of the UK Government to the International Atomic Energy Agency's 7th Convention on Nuclear Safety; productive support to stakeholders across Great Britain through local forums and a successful Non-Government Organisations meeting and furthering strong relationships with government departments, agencies and the Devolved Administrations (of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).

"ONR underwent significant change over the period of this report both at Board and management level to ensure we remain fit for the future," Baldwin said in the forward to the report. At board level, ministers re-appointed Oona Muirhead as security non-executive director and chair of the Security Committee. Baldwin said this brings "continuity and stability to the Committee in the face of an evolving and changing global and national threat environment".

Adriènne Kelbie, ONR chief executive, said the regulator had "embarked on a journey of significant operational change". She said: "We began to work as a more holistic organisation that wants to reflect the very best practice in governance, management, systems and processes and whose leaders demonstrate the importance of behaviours, alongside technical prowess. We set up new cross-directorate governance groups, to better engage our staff in helping ONR respond to strategic risk and to better reflect the diversity of our organisation. We revised our functions to better align authority and accountability across HR, Finance, Policy and Communications, and Regulatory operations, and established a new Information and Technology Directorate. Our Regulatory functions were also re-structured to address the nuclear lifecycle: New Nuclear Build, Operating Facilities, Sellafield, Decommissioning, Fuel & Waste and Civil Nuclear Security and introduced a new Technical Division to provide deep technical support to the chief nuclear inspector."

Richard Savage, chief nuclear inspector, said ONR had continued its "robust assessment" of new reactor designs, with the AP1000 Design Acceptance Confirmation issued in March.

ONR has continued to apply its "proportionate approach to regulatory attention", he said, noting that the Heysham 1 and Hartlepool nuclear units had returned to routine operations following "effective remedial action" to address a boiler defect.

Its transport inspections and package assessments have provided "continued confidence" in the safe transport of nuclear and radiological materials, he said. It has also continued to enhance its regulation of the supply chain on achieving high standards.

ONR this year took a significant step to "outcome-focused" security regulation, he said, with publication in March of its first Security Assessment Principles. "This pivotal shift in our regulatory framework is aligned with the goal-setting approach that has been applied so successfully in the nuclear and conventional safety arenas for many years. Our Security Assessment Principles provide an essential foundation as the UK moves towards a non-prescriptive nuclear security regime that strengthens the accountability of the dutyholder," he added.

ONR has "sought to appropriately enhance" its international engagement and notably, led a UK delegation at the 7th Convention on Nuclear Safety, on behalf of the government, he said.

On 2017/18, Savage said that, "as our operational developments bed in", he remains confident in ONR's capabilities to meet the near-term challenges, but also to shape itself well for the long term.

In the 2016/2017 financial year, ONR was funded by cost recovery from dutyholders (96%) and a grant from DWP (4%). Its total income for the 2016-2017 was GBP70.7 million ($91.2 million), which it forecasts to rise to GBP80.4 million in 2017/2018. The forecast only includes resource expenditure and excludes capital expenditure of GBP0.7 million.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News