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Case Studies

Nuclear report

Security in the nuclear power sector has to run from the front gate to the boardroom, says the sector’s regulator in its 2013 report.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) covers safety, security, transport and emergency preparedness. In its latest annual report it said: “Overall, ONR is satisfied with the safety and security performance of the majority of sites that we regulate. However, we consider that all sites have the potential to improve their safety and security performance and we expect them to continuously review, measure, and improve their management of safety and security.”

Given that risks are so wide-ranging – from computer hacking to a ram-raid of a perimeter to a scientist being corrupted into handing over protectively marked papers by a rival firm or a foreign power, to an accident at ports when nuclear material is being shipped – the regulator is seeking to bring in a ‘security culture’ at nuclear sites. In the regulator’s words: “Across the nuclear industry workforce the understanding of security culture remains at an early stage of maturity.”

Under the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003 (NISR), nuclear power stations and places with nuclear material must make sure that nuclear facilities and information, are protected from malicious acts including theft, sabotage and terrorism. NISR requires duty-holders to produce security plans designed to deal with the assessed threat to the UK nuclear industry. According to the report, October 2012 saw the introduction of ‘a goal-setting regulatory approach to security planning more analogous to the nuclear safety regime’. Plans have to cover physical site protection, information and cyber security, vetting and personnel security and nuclear material transport security.

Also under NISR security events are reportable by dutyholders under NISR, and over 90 per cent of the reports submitted relate to instances of a failure to comply with some aspect of an approved security plan. In the last year, no reports were categorised as being of major significance, 31 were moderate, 223 minor and 30 of no significance. The Civil Nuclear Constabulary and contract security is used to guard sites.

After a review of the risk of sabotage at nuclear power stations, the security clearance considered appropriate for staff and contractors working at them was upgraded. It changed from Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) conducted by dutyholders themselves to Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC) conducted through ONR. It is expected that this will necessitate over 9000 additional vetting applications. The regulator says that it is ‘satisfied’ with the standards, procedures and commitment with regard to security within the civil nuclear industry. ONR has seen a substantial increase in its workload arising from the changing vetting requirements described previously. Compared to a total of 2842 security clearances granted in 2011-12, 6610 have been issued in 2012-13. As background, the ONR is part of the watchdog the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).


The January 2014 print issue of Professional Security featured internal reports of emergency exercises at nuclear sites in 2012, as released through a Freedom of Information Act request to HSE. Visit


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