Office for Nuclear Regulation

ONR speaks at international nuclear decommissioning summit

1 March, 2023

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) last week attended the ACI Nuclear Decommissioning & Waste Management Summit.

Ian Phillips, ONR’s Head of Safety Regulation Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste, was a key speaker at the event held in London where he was joined by senior leaders from a range of different organisations including licensees, industry consultants, purchasing and procurement management specialists, academic institutions, government and nuclear technology and waste management companies.

This year’s event focused on overcoming the current challenges surrounding the decommissioning process of nuclear power plants and radioactive waste management.

Ian gave a presentation entitled ‘Decommissioning – safety challenges from a UK regulatory perspective.’

He spoke about the challenges of decommissioning legacy plants which were historically designed with less of a focus on clean up and decommissioning than the more modern nuclear plants built in recent decades.

Ian also discussed the range of factors that licensees must consider when preparing their decommissioning strategies, explaining the importance that ONR places on ensuring a long-term plan is prepared and maintained for each site and how we expect it to be integrated with a dutyholder’s other continuing programmes for dealing with both radioactive waste and radioactive material.

The presentation also covered the changing overall risk profile of a nuclear site as it enters decommissioning, with Ian explaining how important it is for licensees to consider this in their decommissioning strategy and plans, noting that while nuclear safety risks will decrease once a site has been defueled, conventional health and safety risks and radiological risks to workers are likely to increase significantly.

He emphasised the importance of licensees understanding this change in hazard profile to ensure they can take steps to mitigate against it.

Ian said: “I was delighted to attend this event on behalf of ONR and to have the opportunity to speak about the key safety challenges that licensees must address when preparing their decommissioning strategies.

“Ensuring that each licenced site is decommissioned safely is a significant part of our regulatory role; with the current operating fleet of Advanced Gas-Cooled reactors set to cease operating over the coming years, our role in this area will increase still further.

“It is vital to worker and public safety that licensees and the wider nuclear industry have a clear understanding of our regulatory expectations and the factors that must be considered by them as a site moves into its decommissioning phase.”

ONR currently regulates the decommissioning of 26 nuclear reactors at 11 different sites operated by Magnox Ltd. It also regulates the decommissioning of three research reactors at Dounreay, Harwell and Winfrith.

To find out more about ONR’s work in this area, please visit the decommissioning pages on the website.