The Chief Nuclear Inspector has today published his annual report detailing the performance of Great Britain’s nuclear industry during 2021/22.
Mark Foy, of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), told delegates at the ONR Industry Conference: “overall the nuclear industry has once again achieved the high standards of safety, security and safeguards compliance that we expect. At the same time, the ONR team delivered successfully against our key priorities to achieve our mission: ‘to protect society by securing safe nuclear operations’.”
The industry event, attended by senior figures from government and the nuclear sector, was returning after a three-year gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introducing his flagship report to the conference, Mr Foy again challenged the industry to maintain increased attention on three overarching themes during 2022/23.
The first theme is a continued focus on the management of ageing facilities. This reflects the emerging findings of an ONR ‘themed inspection’ during 2021/22 which found that some sites have improved their programmes for the management of ageing assets but more work is needed to strengthen arrangements and achieve consistency across the industry.
Conventional health and safety performance again features as an area of regulatory scrutiny – particularly in the context of the considerable construction-related work taking place across the sector. The report notes that the last year has seen a rise in electrical incidents and near misses, as well as a number of fire events. While none of these incidents had any radiological or nuclear safety consequences, ONR will run a programme of targeted inspections to influence improvements in this area.
There will also be continued focus on ‘leadership for safety and security culture’ in recognition of the vital role leaders play in driving positive safety and security culture in organisations. In this area, ONR has been working with the Alliance Manchester Business School, alongside the industry, to develop better means of assessing cultural factors within organisations and drive sector-wide improvements.
The coming year will also see an ONR ‘themed inspection’ examining the continued adequacy of the industry’s arrangements to maintain safety in the face of climate change impacts, taking account of the latest scientific advice. This work has been commissioned in the context of significant public interest in this area, particularly among communities near proposed or existing ‘new nuclear’ sites.
The annual report highlights a number of positive achievements across the sector including: improvements to security profiling and assessment at decommissioning sites operated by Magnox Ltd – in turn influencing a return to ‘routine’ regulatory attention from a strategic security perspective; effective use of learning by EDF Energy Ltd following end of power generation at Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B to ensure lessons are shared across the AGR reactor fleet; increased focus on management of radioactive waste across the industry by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; and effective contractor collaboration at Hinkley Point C through the mechanical, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (MEH) Alliance (Partnership).
There was also a return to ‘routine’ regulatory attention for the EDF Dungeness B station and the Atomic Weapons Establishment site at Burghfield – each as a result of sustained improvements in safety performance.
Mark Foy said: “Our mission is to protect society which we achieve through a regulatory regime of inspection, assessment, and engagement.
“Over the last year the industry continued to put significant effort into addressing the key regulatory priorities I set out in my last report. I commend the nuclear industry’s resilience as we emerge and recover from the pandemic, and its overall focus on achieving safe and secure outcomes.
“Sustained effort is still required to deliver long‑term improvements in some areas – from the management of ageing facilities, to the safety of workers on major project construction sites, and leadership and culture for safety and security.
“In the year ahead, we will retain a focus on these themes, to influence cross industry improvements and maintain respect, trust and confidence in what we do.”
Reflecting on ONR’s work over the last year, Executive Director of Regulation Donald Urquhart, said: “Over the last year we have successfully delivered our design assessment of the UK HPR1000 reactor, and have permissioned the next and vital construction phase at Hinkley Point C and the commencement of retrievals from legacy facilities at Sellafield.
“We have also worked with dutyholders to deliver compliant site security plans that align with our Security Assessment Principles, and have provided regulatory oversight of the preparation for defueling of shut down reactors and of the ongoing safe operation of EDF’s reactor fleet.
“In addition, our safeguards team has worked – tirelessly but successfully – to deliver and operate a state system of accountancy and control that supports meeting the UK’s international obligations.”
* The report also features details and analysis of safety events reported by industry dutyholders between April 2021 and March 2022, as well as ONR’s annual Research Statement.