IAEA Reviews UK Regulatory Framework

An International Atomic Energy Agency review team noted that the United Kingdom is demonstrating a commitment to strengthening regulations for nuclear and radiation safety, but also identified areas that could benefit from further enhancement.

IAEA logoThe International Regulatory Review Service team concluded an 11-day mission to the UK on 25 October. The review was conducted, conforming with standard IAEA procedure, at the request of the host country. This review was requested by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and hosted by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). The scope of the review, the fourth such review for the UK, touched on fifteen separate regulatory agencies in the country.

The review touched on regulatory responsibilities and functions of the government, global nuclear safety, management system and responsibilities, enforcement, development of regulations, and emergency preparedness and response. The review also evaluated safety with regards to nuclear security. In its work, the team visited a nuclear power plant, an industrial radiography facility, a hospital and a waste management facility.

The UK has 15 operational nuclear power reactors at seven plants. They generate 21 percent of the UK’s electricity. There are also two nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in the country.

UK standards are laudatory. “The ONR has a mature regulatory framework that could be emulated by other countries’ regulatory authorities to improve their understanding and implementation of IAEA safety standards,” said review team leader Ramzi Jammal, executive vice-president and chief regulatory officer in the Regulatory Operations Branch of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

On the “good practices” side of the inspection report, “The ONR has established a matrix management structure that effectively allocates resources and improves its hiring, training and strategic planning practices,” according to the review team. In addition, the team applauded the practice of security officers who specialize in radiological matters advising environmental regulators on security measures for category 1-4 radioactive sources.

Recommended for improvement:

  • The UK Government should publish a single, formalized statement of its national policy and strategy for safety.
  • Several regulatory authorities should develop long term inspection programmes.
  • Several regulatory authorities should improve their respective human resource plans to align with their oversight functions for radiation safety.

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