Following the launch in January 2024 of the government’s Civil Nuclear Roadmap as part of its energy security and net zero plans, we are ready to independently regulate the country’s anticipated growing nuclear sector.
The UK has a widely respected regulatory system and ONR has been preparing for the expansion of new nuclear for some time. For example, we have:
- Developed our capability and capacity to regulate light water small modular reactors (SMRs) and the next generation of advanced modular reactors (AMRs)
- Reviewed our guidance and processes to ensure they are fully compatible with the regulation of SMRs
- Advised the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on its AMR feasibility and development programme
- Engaged with regulators internationally, including participation in International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency forums
- Provided regulatory advice to vendors
- Streamlined the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and provided greater clarity on options for design assessment
- Considered how to streamline our licensing process
- Developed a new early engagement process
We responded to the challenge set by the British Energy Security Strategy for all regulators to consider how their processes can be accelerated. We consider the greatest potential for this to be via much greater collaboration with international regulators on reactor design assessment, and leveraging of technical assessments undertaken by other regulatory bodies. This, and having well-developed reactor designs brought forward by a developer that understands UK regulation and proposes to replicate what has been developed elsewhere, has the potential to significantly reduce timescales to achieve a GDA design acceptance confirmation (DAC) by up to 50%.
The GDA process was developed and is managed by ONR and the Environment Agency. GDA timescales are agreed between the regulators and requesting party during the project initiation phase. As the UK’s independent nuclear regulator, we own these regulatory processes independently to ensure the required standards of safety, security and safeguards.
GDA timescales are largely driven by the Requesting Party’s schedule and design maturity. Setting up a development company, procuring a site, obtaining a DCO and applying for a licence can all start in parallel to GDA. The fact that GDA is not site specific means it supports multi-site fleet deployment models.
For nuclear site licensing, we are proposing a new portal that will steer applicants through the process, with enhanced guidance and case studies, and will launch an update to Licensing Nuclear Installations early this year.
We will continue to engage across the new nuclear sector through forums including the Nuclear Skills Taskforce and Great British Nuclear, and ensure our independent regulation is proportionate and robust.