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Nuclear report

Nuclear security is an ‘outcome-focussed approach’, according to the latest annual report, for 2016-17, from the UK nuclear sector regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

ONR chair Nick Baldwin in a foreword to the annual report pointed to new Security Assessment Principles (SyAPs) ‘now aligned with our approach to safety regulation by placing the onus on duty-holders to deliver defined security outcomes whilst allowing greater flexibility of approach and encouraging innovation in security solutions’.

The report said that the new approach, which it described as a ‘transformation’, ‘encourages innovation in security solutions that provide effective and robust protection against the modern threat environment, whilst working in harmony with business processes and maximising opportunities for adding value’.

In the language of such reports, the ONR admitted to widespread shortcomings in security, or in its words it ‘identified shortfalls in relation to governance of protective security in general and in particular the delivery of major security projects in the areas of planning, processes and procedures. These areas will be the subject of regulatory interventions to ensure improvement’. At Sellafield, in west Cumbria, pictured, the regulator saw room for improvement in among other things ‘internal investigations’. And at Harwell, the research site in Oxfordshire, the report spoke of ‘loss of specialist knowledge, short staffing in the emergency preparedness team and evidence of a poor security culture’ as the site security manager has retired. As a tenant on site relied on that manager for its security advice, that tenant ‘has been left with a degraded security capability and capacity’.

Likewise the Chief Nuclear Inspector Dr Richard Savage pointed to the regulator’s first Security Assessment Principles, as published in March. “This pivotal shift in our regulatory framework is aligned with the goal-setting approach that has been applied so successfully in the nuclear and conventional safety arenas for many years. Our Security Assessment Principles provide an essential foundation as the UK moves towards a non-prescriptive nuclear security regime that strengthens the accountability of the duty-holder.”

Along with the nuclear industry having accountability for its own safety and security, it’s paying for the regulator, through as the report says ‘cost recovery from duty-holders’, with little funding from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Brexit will affect the nuclear sector, as there are implications of UK leaving the Euratom Treaty.

Background

The ONR regulates nuclear safety, nuclear site health and safety, nuclear security, nuclear safeguards, and transport of radioactive materials, taking in reactors, fuel cycle facilities, waste management and decommissioning of sites, as at Sellafield, which has ‘significantly enhanced’ attention from the ONR; and its ‘strategic risks’ include cyber security. Security covers ‘physical, cyber and information assurance, personnel security, carriers approved to transport nuclear material and security contingency planning and exercising’; and resilience in case of ‘extreme events’. Not only power stations and the research site at Aldermaston are covered; but licensed nuclear sites at Barrow and Derby for the building of nuclear-powered submarines.


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