Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – ONR Position

1 April, 2020

Updated 6 April 2020

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is continuing to protect society by securing safe nuclear operations during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Social distancing at nuclear sites

As an effective regulator, ONR is supporting national efforts to ensure that social distancing and shielding measures are being properly observed at licensed nuclear sites.

Our regulatory focus includes assurance, where appropriate, from site licensees that they are applying the public health measures introduced to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The UK’s nuclear industry is mature and responsible, with an excellent nuclear safety record. We expect it to continue to make responsible and conservative decisions as it responds to the challenges of the pandemic. We are applying our regulatory influence, based on long-established health and safety legislation, to ensure that licensed sites protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work, in line with guidance from Public Health England (PHE).

In these extremely testing times, ONR remains a vital element of public service and we are working closely with industry to ensure that social distancing is being properly followed. We are in daily contact with licensed sites and dutyholders and have already gained assurance regarding COVID-19 control measures and the widespread actions being taken to scale back non-essential operations across the industry.

Should we identify instances where sites are failing to apply the relevant PHE guidance, we will consider taking action in line with our Enforcement Management Model and engage with the enforcing authorities designated in the new emergency health protection legislation if required.

ONR ways of working during COVID-19

ONR staff continue to work from home, in line with government advice. We have considered our priorities, have deferred non-critical activities, and are carrying out as much of our work as possible via videoconference, phone and email. A limited number of our inspectors can, as key workers, continue to travel to site as necessary to conduct urgent and essential regulatory inspections, such as those related to the application of social distancing measures.

Nuclear safety

ONR will continue to obtain assurance that site licensees and dutyholders are adequately resourced to continue to safely and securely carry out their activities.

All licensed sites are required to determine minimum staffing levels necessary to ensure safe and secure operations and contingency arrangements in the event that these levels are not met. This condition is specifically designed to ensure that industry can adequately manage and control activities that could impact on nuclear safety and security under all foreseeable circumstances, including pandemics.

Nuclear sites have been reducing non-essential activities so as to protect staff, infrastructure, and the public. As always, we are regulating those activities to ensure they are carried out safely and securely.

In due course, we will work with industry to re-plan activity for when operations return to normal.