We make regulatory decisions on a daily basis and, from time-to-time, the regulatory issues we deal with and the decisions we make attract strong external interest from a wide range of our stakeholders.
A recent example is our assessment of the safety case for the return to service of Hunterston B Reactor 4 and the subsequent decision to allow its restart for a period of time, where we recognised from the outset that the future operation of the reactor was a highly emotive issue, with strong – and sometimes opposing views – from different parties about its continued operation.
As a regulator committed to openness and transparency, we recognise the importance of listening to our stakeholders, and we commit a lot of effort to regular engagements with interested parties (for example, through our Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Forum, government ministers (and other elected representatives), officials, webinars and face-to-face meetings) at the appropriate time, as an opportunity for them to raise concerns and questions with us, and for us to provide reassurance of our decisions.
Throughout our assessment of the Hunterston B Reactor 4 safety case, my team and I met stakeholders, including the Scottish Government, North Ayrshire Council, BEIS, NGOs, Members of Scottish Parliament, the Nuclear Free Local Authorities group, and members of the local community around Hunterston. We also corresponded with many more.
As the independent regulator, it is important that our stakeholders recognise that we make our decisions objectively, after rigorously reviewing the evidence before us and without fear or favour – with safety and security as our overriding priority, and we will continue to engage with all our stakeholders on our future decisions, ensuring we are accessible, open and transparent about our regulation.
Sean Morris, Secretary of UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA), a group who raise concerns around nuclear safety issues on behalf of member councils, met with ONR during the assessment exercise of Hunterston B. He said:
“Together with our adviser Dr Ian Fairlie, I met with Donald and ONR’s Head of Assessment on two occasions during the assessment exercise. The opportunity to meet with senior ONR staff was very useful to my organisation and allowed us to stay fully informed about what was happening as work on the safety case progressed.
“Throughout I found ONR to be open to engaging with us and willing to answer our questions and listen to our concerns and perspective, which we appreciate and welcome, despite our disagreement on their final decision.
“I’m pleased to see that ONR values its relationships with stakeholders and I hope they will continue to engage proactively and constructively with organisations such as the NFLA and others in the future.”