Office for Nuclear Regulation

Our People – Rowland Cook, nuclear site inspector

24 November, 2023

‘Our People’ is a regular feature, focusing on ONR’s staff and the work we do every day to help keep the nuclear industry safe and secure.

It aims to bring our jobs to life while increasing understanding of our role among key stakeholders.

Rowland Cook’s industry career in safety and risk assessment spans three decades, marked most recently by a commitment to ensuring the safety and security of nuclear operations at ONR.

From his early days as a safety engineer at Rolls Royce to his current role at ONR, his work has always reflected a dedication to safeguarding against potential hazards and now developing the way the regulator carries out its inspections.

In 1982, after graduating from Aston University with an Honours degree in chemical engineering, Rowland embarked on a decade-long role at Rolls Royce and Associates, working on safety assessments of the naval nuclear powerplant.

After relocating to Scotland, he moved to inspecting oil rigs for the Offshore Safety Division of the Health and Safety Executive, based in Aberdeen, Scotland.

During this time, Rowland also worked as part of the team that introduced the safety case regime to the UK offshore industry in response to Lord Cullen’s recommendations following the Piper Alpha disaster in 1986.

As oil reservoirs began to deplete in the early 2000s, he decided on a new path, still within the energy sector, and applied to transfer to ONR as an inspector.

Since 2002, he has been a nuclear site inspector, performing various roles at Sellafield and at nuclear reactor decommissioning sites.

One of Rowland’s most notable achievements was helping to create the ONR issues database, a workstream set in motion by the ICL plastics factory explosion in Glasgow in 2004.

This database tracks regulatory issues arising from inspections, ensuring they are correctly captured and actioned. It also provides a valuable resource for ONR to share learning across nuclear sites.

A regulatory issue is a matter identified by ONR which requires action by a dutyholder to return to compliance or demonstrate they are already compliant.

Rowland said: “What I find most rewarding about working for ONR is the chance to keep people safe, having the opportunity to underline the importance of safety, and the personal satisfaction of protecting the public and the environment.”

He’s also particularly proud of the part he played in taking Bradwell nuclear power station decommissioning site, in Essex, into the care and maintenance state – a passive safe state where the station could be left under a minimal maintenance regime.

Bradwell was the first nuclear power station in the UK to enter this phase which was a major milestone for the industry in this country.

In his current role, Rowland focuses on preparing ONR’s inspection specialism for the challenges posed by the evolving nuclear industry landscape, anticipating the increased focus on decommissioning and the forthcoming end of generation dates for some of the country’s existing operational reactors.

He said: “Nothing is static in my job – we must keep evaluating and moving forward to ensure we’re a fit for purpose regulator for the years ahead, adapting to the inevitable changes and rapidly evolving portfolios within the industry.”

In his spare time, Rowland is a lover of classical music and guitars and plays in his church’s praise band.

He also immerses himself in photography, with involvement soon in an exhibition, and enjoys driving a sports car he built in his garage – a Caterham Seven.

Rowland is a fiction writer, contributing to a local writing group and editing anthologies of their stories.