In 2008, the Government commissioned a major review into the UK’s nuclear regulatory regime. This review was conducted by Dr Tim Stone, senior adviser on nuclear new build to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury.
Dr Stone made a number of recommendations, which included the need to restructure what was the nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear Directorate (ND). He proposed the creation of a new, sector-specific regulator for the nuclear industry – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
HSE is committed to establishing an appropriately resourced and responsive regulator for the future challenges of the nuclear sector. As an agency within HSE, ONR will carry out operational, regulatory and policy functions in relation to nuclear sites, security of nuclear material and sensitive information and safeguards.
ONR has a framework document which outlines how ONR will operate as an agency within the wider HSE and constitutes the authority for the conduct of its operations.
At the end of 2012, ONR took another step closer to becoming an independent public corporation. On 29 November 2012, the Energy Bill was introduced to Parliament. Part 3 of this Bill contains measures to create the ONR as a statutory corporation. The Energy Bill is currently progressing through Parliament, where it is being scrutinised in detail by both Commons MPs and Peers in the House of Lords.
The Energy Bill also has a dedicated webpage, which informs on current progress as well as providing access to the text of the Bill and all accompanying documents
Whilst we cannot predict Parliamentary timescales, it is anticipated that the Bill should complete all Parliamentary stages and receive Royal Assent by the end of 2013.
The Energy Bill will give powers to ONR to be the regulator on all Great Britain nuclear licensed sites. In addition to the primary legislation to establish ONR in the Energy Bill, a number of amendments to other pieces of legislation will be required to assign enforcement responsibility to ONR on defence authorised sites, nuclear construction sites and nuclear warship berths. These changes will not affect the way in which the nuclear industry is regulated, or the standards that they are expected to meet.
In many cases, the changes proposed will confer responsibility from HSE to ONR. In respect of Great Britain nuclear licensed sites, ONR will become the enforcing authority, as well as the licensing authority and the competent authority where appropriate. An example of this type of change will be to the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005, where ONR is expected to be responsible for issuing explosives storage consents and licences, as well as enforcement of the regulations.
In addition, ONR will be assigned responsibility as the enforcing authority only on defence authorised sites and nuclear construction sites. As an example, ONR will be responsible for making sure that sites comply with the Working Time Regulations 1998, ensuring the maximum hours worked by employees on these sites meet the requirements of the regulations, and taking action where appropriate.
HSE will retain policy responsibility for all non-nuclear health and safety matters.
There are a small number of pieces of legislation that will be transferred directly to ONR, such as responsibility for the Nuclear Reactors (Environmental Impact Assessment for Decommissioning) Regulations 1999, where ONR will be the body able to grant consents for dismantling or decommissioning of nuclear power stations or nuclear reactors.
If you have any questions or comments about the proposed changes, please contact us using the ‘contact ONR’ tab above.