Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Regulating the regulators

5 November, 2019

Anthony Hart, ONR Technical DirectorAnthony Hart, ONR Technical Director

Getting feedback on our application of international safety standards, enhances the effectiveness of our regulation.

We recently hosted a major international review of the UK’s regulation of nuclear and radiological safety.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) Mission, co-ordinated through the IAEA took place between October 14-25, at the request of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It brought together an 18-strong team of independent experts from across the globe to the UK, to review the regulation of safety across civil nuclear, radiological sources and the transport of radioactive materials.

Although we hosted the 11-day mission, it scrutinised 15 other UK regulatory bodies and five government departments involved in occupational radiological protections, nuclear safety, medical and non-medical exposures, public exposures and environmental protection, transport of radioactive material, and emergency preparedness and response.

During the visit, the expert team held interviews and policy discussions, and visited nuclear and radiological-related sites to observe inspections and other regulatory practices in the field.

Together, we undertook a considerable amount of preparatory work to produce the material for the Mission team to use for reference during the visit. This included a detailed self-assessment of how well we thought the UK meets IAEA standards and guidance.

We expect the review to recommend areas for improvement, alongside positive examples of good regulatory practice. This will enable the UK Government and regulators to benchmark our current approaches and close any potential gaps, with many benefits to nuclear and radiological safety in the UK and abroad.

The IAEA team will compile a report on the effectiveness of the UK’s regulatory infrastructure and the UK intends to publish the final report, subject to Ministerial agreement, in February 2020.

For news and updates of the Mission, please see our Twitter feed @the_onr or our page on LinkedIn.

IRRS Mission – Key Facts

  • This was the fifth IRRS Mission to the UK, but the first full-scope mission, reviewing the regulation of safety across civil nuclear, radiological sources and the transport of radioactive materials.
  • The Mission brought together senior nuclear and radiological regulators, recruited from IAEA Member States, to identify areas of good practice and opportunities for improvement. ONR’s specialists regularly take part in IRRS Missions to other countries.
  • It is the only independent peer review service of a state’s regulatory infrastructure for radiological safety across civil nuclear, radiological sources and transport of radioactive materials.
  • The UK has taken part in three IRRS Missions (2006, 2009 and 2013) plus an expert mission in 2014 to review progress against all existing findings from previous Missions.
  • Over the past year, staff across ONR and our regulatory counterparts have completed a self-assessment of the UK’s regulatory arrangements, reviewing processes against IAEA standards and guidance.