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New nuclear regulator established as functions hived off from HSE

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Regulation of the nuclear industry has been hived off from HSE following the establishment of the Office for Nuclear Regulation as an independent body.


On 31 March the Energy Act, which entered the statute books in December 2013, made ONR an independent public corporation – meaning it sits outside of the civil service – reporting to the Department for Work and Pensions.

ONR, previously an agency of HSE, is responsible for regulating nuclear safety and security at the UK’s 37 licensed nuclear sites, as well as the transportation and safeguarding of nuclear and radioactive materials. It will also be the regulator responsible for enforcing occupational health and safety standards.

With the industry set to expand in the coming years, ONR will have a role in ensuring new nuclear facilities are designed, built and operated to high standards. It will also oversee the decommissioning of old nuclear sites.

The ONR chief executive officer John Jenkins said: “I am delighted that we have completed this transformation. It will make us stronger and ready to face a future where the nuclear industry is a key part of the UK’s energy mix.

“ONR is a first class regulator, and we recognise the scale and task ahead of us. Our change in status will provide us with the financial and operational flexibility we need to react quickly to changes in the nuclear industry, and attract and retain a nuclear-skilled workforce.”

The vast majority of ONR’s £62.7m budget will be recovered from industry, primarily through licensing fees. The 2% that is not from those regulated will come from the DWP. 

According to the impact assessment for the establishment of ONR as an independent body, ONR could not attract and retain staff while it sat within the civil service in “a competitive and increasingly international market”.

ONR says there will be a more consistent and predictable approach to regulation, and an expectation of continued commitment from industry to strong and visible regulation.

“Our role as a regulator is critically important in ensuring that when it comes to issues of nuclear safety and security, we hold the industry to account,” said Dr Andy Hall, the chief nuclear inspector. “We are committed to publicly demonstrating how the decisions that we make are based on sound evidence and subject to proper scrutiny, which will ensure that we maintain confidence in the way that the industry is run.”

 

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