Nuclear Power

02 Feb 2024

UK Strengthens Nuclear Regulation, IAEA Mission Finds

02 Feb 2024  by world-nuclear-news   
The UK has a strong commitment to nuclear and radiation safety and has made progress to reinforce its regulatory functions, although recruitment challenges remain, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said following its completion of a follow-up Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission.

The mission team with representatives from UK regulators (Image: ONR)

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, based on IAEA safety standards and international good practices, while recognising the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.

The seven-day follow-up IRRS mission was conducted at the request of the UK government and took place at the headquarters of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), in Bootle, near Liverpool. Its purpose was to evaluate the implementation of 24 recommendations and 19 suggestions provided during the initial full-scope IRRS mission in October 2019.

The IRRS team comprised of seven senior regulatory experts from seven IAEA Member States, three IAEA staff members, and one observer from Canada.

The team said that since 2019, the UK regulatory bodies involved in the review have shown a strong professionalism and commitment in carrying out their mandate to nuclear and radiation safety in the UK. Of the 24 recommendations and 19 suggestions made in 2019, 19 recommendations and ten suggestions have been successfully addressed and closed.

In its report, the team made six new findings consisting of four recommendations and two suggestions in relation to the topics covered during the IRRS initial mission. In particular, the team noted that the inability to recruit and retain specialists and inspectors has had an impact on the regulatory processes of some bodies and recommended a pay reform where required in order to ensure the statutory remit is delivered.

"This IRRS follow-up mission demonstrated that the UK has made continuous improvements since the IRRS 2019 mission to the highest standards of nuclear and radiation safety," said Ramzi Jammal, acting CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the team leader for the IRRS follow-up mission. "The findings of the mission will contribute to the ongoing efforts to ensure a robust regulatory framework for the benefit of the public and the environment."

The final mission report will be provided to the UK government in about three months.

"We thank the IRRS mission team members for productive discussions on the UK's radiological safety framework," said a spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. "We are committed to maintaining the highest nuclear safety standards and are grateful for the hard work of our government departments and regulatory bodies across the four nations of the UK in helping to make the mission a success.

"It comes at an important moment for British nuclear as the government recently set out plans for a revival to deliver up to 24 GW by 2050. This will require a robust regulatory framework and significant work has already been done by UK regulators to develop their approach and work more closely with international partners."


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