Tim Webb's article (Fears for safety as nuclear watchdog hires staff from firms pitching to build reactors, 27 June) implies that the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) undermines its ability to operate independently and effectively by recruiting external contractors. This is far from the case. All GDA design acceptance decisions will be based on NII's rigorous and independent assessment of the reactor designs submitted.
The article appears to misunderstand our use of technical contractors and project managers as well as confusing their roles. We have established a framework agreement, including 31 Technical Support Contractors across a range of 15 technical areas, to support our in-house nuclear assessors. This approach is not unusual in industry or government. In all cases the work of the contractors will be reviewed by the NII assessors and all regulatory decisions will be made by HSE. The contracts are placed to ensure there are no conflicts of interest with contractors working on the same design for HSE and the requesting parties.
Separately, to improve our management of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process, we have recruited two experienced project managers and are recruiting a further two. They are not involved in the assessment of the reactor designs and again do not make regulatory decisions.
AREVA, Bechtel and CH2MHill are not involved in the technical support contract framework, nor are any of the Project Managers employed by them. AMEC are used as a technical consultant, although the HSE is confident that there is no conflict of interest.
Rest assured, HSE's regulatory independence will not be compromised in its commitment to protecting people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry.
Deputy Chief Executive
Health and Safety Executive