This website uses non-intrusive cookies to improve your user experience. You can visit our cookie privacy page for more information.

HSE Nuclear Division's conference

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair, 17 July 2009

Welcome to HSE's conference for senior managers in the nuclear industry. I am conscious that numerous people in the room today meet together quite regularly these days to discuss various aspects of the nuclear agenda. HSE's last major conference for senior managers took place over a year ago here in London, where we brought together senior managers from all the major hazards industries - offshore, nuclear, oil and petrochemicals. Today's event is more specific - but is no less important.

Other nuclear conferences have focused on issues of skills, resources, planning regimes, the generic design assessment process, but the key purposes of this event today are somewhat different.

The purposes are:

  1. to discuss the strategic challenges and opportunities which we all face over the next 10 years and to explore what parts we can all play.
  2. to discuss the proposed change of status of HSE's Nuclear Directorate to a Nuclear Statutory Corporation. To highlight the key points contained in the Consultation Document recently published by DECC/DWP.
  3. to describe the cultural change which is already underway in HSE's Nuclear Directorate and to describe how the Transition Programme is taking us towards the Nuclear Statutory Corporation.

We are in the midst of a period of enormous change for the nuclear industry as a whole and everyone involved with it. The industry has gone from being in a steady decline, looking forward only to a long programme of decommissioning, to being a key and very high profile part of the solution to the UK's Energy and Climate Change Strategy. The new era is one of expansion and growth involving many new players - and the timescales we are working with are very tight.

As the prospect of growth within the nuclear industry has built so has the level of interest from the public and the media. Public opinion is changing but we remain on fragile ground. It is essential that we build and maintain public confidence in a safe nuclear future - and an independent regulator is an essential element of that.

I mentioned earlier that just over a year ago, HSE held a conference here in London where we brought all of the major hazards sectors together. One of the key messages of that conference was that we did not have to learn lessons or find solutions in splendid isolation from one another - there is good practice which can be shared between sectors - on both the industry and the regulatory side. Nuclear is no exception to that. Many of you from the private sector who are now involved in new nuclear will have worked with HSE in other sectors under somewhat different regulatory regimes - let's be very clear that there are lessons we can learn from there and bring to bear on how we might regulate the new nuclear industry going forward.

Some of you will also have considerable experience of other regulatory regimes in other parts of the world. We should be open to considering what we can learn from elsewhere - no one and nowhere has a monopoly on good ideas.

We are holding this event at a pivotal time - DECC/DWP's consultation on the restructuring of HSE's Nuclear Directorate commenced on 30 June. We have scheduled a significant part of today's agenda to talk about this. The intent is that the new arrangements will maintain both the substance and standards of the current regulatory regime and preserve the independence of the nuclear regulatory body. But it is also intended to enable the independent nuclear regulator of safety and security to adapt to better meet the challenges of a changing nuclear industry of the future.

The changes will provide greater flexibility and will increase the accountability, transparency and openness of nuclear regulation in the 21st Century.

We must also recognise that at the same time as we are working towards a new era for nuclear we are also managing the decommissioning of a significant legacy. Building confidence in what is to come is not only about the new regime for new facilities but also about maintaining standards and attention of the legacy issues in parallel. They must move together - they must stay in close contact and in harmony. We can be certain that the public and the media will draw no distinction between the two - any reason to doubt the safety of what is already here will seriously impact upon what is yet to come.

We need everyone in the nuclear sector to be engaged in facing up to the challenges which we already have and those which lie ahead. The more that we see these challenges as shared opportunities rather than threats - or sticks to beat each other - the better.

I am hopeful that we can achieve a lot today - building upon the considerable amount which has already been achieved but accelerating our pace of change going forward.

I would now like to hand over to Mike Weightman who will begin by setting the scene for our strategic discussions.

Updated 2009-07-22