The IAEA IRRS review programme is intended to assist Member States enhance the organisation and performance of national nuclear regulatory bodies. IRRS is a peer review service conducted by a team of international experts with experience directly relevant to the areas of evaluation. The team concentrates on key areas of regulatory activity identified within IAEA safety standards to assess the effectiveness of the regulatory body. The review is not an inspection to determine compliance with national legislation, but is more an objective comparison of national nuclear regulation with international guidelines.
In 2005 the UK government invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct a modular IRRS mission to the UK to review ONR readiness to regulate a new generation of nuclear power stations, should the option be taken up. In April 2006, IAEA conducted its first review mission of the Office for Nuclear Regulation.
The IAEA’s final report of the first mission’s findings helped inform the government’s review of energy policy. The IAEA provided a balanced report, noting a mature and transparent regulatory system and advanced review process, backed up by highly trained, expert and experienced nuclear inspectors.
The IAEA completed its second IRRS mission in October 2009. During the mission a team of 10 international experts reviewed ONR progress since the first mission and recent regulatory developments, the regulation of operating power plants and fuel cycle facilities and reviewed additional areas of regulatory activity. The areas reviewed included, inspection and enforcement and, emergency preparedness and response, and, the proposed transition arrangements made to move ONR to be a more autonomous body called a Statutory Corporation. Soon after the review team’s visit the IAEA published a press release on the mission.
In January 2010 IAEA provided the UK government with the final report of its findings from the second IRRS mission. The IAEA team concluded that ONR has taken initiatives to address the findings from the first IRRS mission in 2006 and also the areas where improvement options were identified from ONR’s self-assessment against IAEA standards. The report includes many statements supporting the UK approach to nuclear regulation. IAEA found that ONR has made progress to improve effectiveness in regulating existing nuclear installations and in preparing to license new nuclear reactors. Many findings identified in the 2006 report have been fully addressed and therefore are considered to be closed, others which remain are being addressed in accordance with a programme of work presented to the IRRS team. The second report also includes a number of new recommendations to help strengthen the UK regulatory body.
The IRRS supported the ONR approach to transition to Statutory Corporation (SC) status. Their report highlights a number of important principles that need to be taken account of during and after the transition, including: adequate legal authority, effective independence, technical and managerial competence and human and financial resources to fulfil all regulatory responsibilities and functions.
ONR and its successor organisation is committed to take the necessary measures to address the findings made in the IAEA final report. These will be dealt with through an IRRS action plan, which is being integrated into the arrangements to enable successful transition to a Statutory Corporation.
HSE published a press release in relation to the final report of the second mission.