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UK: The Office for Nuclear Regulation becomes an independent Public Corporation

    • Energy and infrastructure - Nuclear


    ONR becomes independent

    The ONR is the UK’s independent nuclear regulatory body and is responsible for ensuring five key purposes: nuclear safety, nuclear security, nuclear site health and safety, nuclear safeguards and transport of radioactive material. 

    It was established in April 2011 as a non-statutory agency of the Health & Safety Executive (“HSE”) and prior to 1 April 2014, the ONR fulfilled its nuclear regulatory function on behalf of the HSE under a number of distinct agreements, without strictly having responsibility for them.

    From 1 April 2014, however, the ONR will operate as an independent body corporate (pursuant to Part 3 of the Energy Act 2013). The Energy Act 2013 provides the framework of responsibilities and the powers of the ONR.

    Significant change?

    The functions of the ONR will not radically change. It will retain the independent powers necessary to regulate the nuclear industry, however, it will act with a more consistent and predictable approach to regulation, will set clear priorities for nuclear regulation and will provide more clarity to the nuclear industry as to its regulatory aims.

    This change in status puts the ONR in a stronger position to fulfil its mission: “To provide efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry, holding it to account on behalf of the public”.

    Future operation of ONR

    ONR Board - must ensure that effective arrangements are in place to provide assistance on governance, risk, management and internal control. It will consist of up to four executive members (which will include the Chief Nuclear Inspector and the Chief Executive Officer) and up to seven non-executive members (including the Chair and a security expert):

    • Chief Nuclear Inspector will have sole responsibility for regulatory decisions within ONR.
    • Chief Executive will continue to be responsible to Parliament for safeguarding public funds and day-to-day operations and management of ONR.
    • Chair will be responsible to the Secretary of State for ensuring that policies and actions support the responsible Minister’s and the UK Government’s wider strategic policies, and that ONR Board’s affairs are conducted with probity and propriety.

    Ties to HSE - despite its independence from HSE, the ONR will retain close links with HSE to ensure cohesion of conventional health and safety practices. HSE are also entitled to appoint one of its members to sit as a non-executive member on the ONR board.

    Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) Secretary of State - will continue to have responsibility for governance, finance and performance in relation to conventional health and safety.

    Relevant documents: ONR must present to the Secretary of State:

    • Strategy - the ONR must prepare a strategy for carrying out its functions, including any general priorities it will apply or principal objectives to which it will have regard and must act in accordance with its strategy.
    • Annual plan – each financial year, the ONR must prepare a plan for the performance of its functions and must take all reasonable steps to act in accordance with it.
    • Report - ONR must report to the Secretary of State on the performance of its functions during the year, describe how it has acted within its strategy and met the objectives set out in the annual plan and describe any relevant services provided by the ONR during the year to any person.

    New enforcement policy statement issued – providing clarity to nuclear site licensees on what is expected of them in order to maintain high standards of safety and security at their sites.

    New brand – ONR has introduced a new logo and launched a new website to mark its status change.