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Chief Nuclear Inspector recognises improvements across UK nuclear sector, but says more must be done

29 October 2019

In his first Annual Report on the UK’s nuclear industry, Chief Nuclear Inspector (CNI) Mark Foy said that although the sector had overall continued to meet the high standards of safety and security required to protect workers and the public, there remained room for improvement.

In areas where shortfalls have been identified, the Chief Inspector said the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) had focused its attention on securing commitments and plans from the industry to improve performance in a timely manner.

In the first report of its kind, the review provides an independent, authoritative view of safety, security and safeguards performance across the nuclear industry over the last year.

It detailled good progress in several areas including continued hazard and risk reduction at Sellafield; the transition of Bradwell power station into a period of Care and Maintenance – marking a UK first; the piloting of new site security plans in line with ONR’s Security Assessment Principles, launched in 2017; and the issue of consent for the first ‘nuclear concrete’ pour at Hinkley Point C.

The report also recognised a number of challenges which require continued focus over the coming year. These include:

*Increased attention at defence weapons and propulsion sites, notably Devonport naval base and the Atomic Weapons Establishment, where programmes to upgrade ageing facilities have experienced delays;

*Continued scrutiny of Hunterston B power station which features the most advanced symptoms of graphite reactor core degradation in the Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactor fleet;

*Enhanced regulatory oversight at Dungeness B where both reactors have been shut down during the last year due to a range of complex age-related issues which are being addressed by licensee EDF Energy;

*Ageing plutonium storage facilities at Sellafield which require sustained investment and focus by Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and government.

The Chief Nuclear Inspector has specifically challenged industry to deliver improved performance on three key themes in 2019/20 and onwards. These are:

*Management of ageing facilities

*Conventional Health and Safety

*Delivering a holistic approach to nuclear security

Mark Foy said: "I am satisfied that the nuclear industry has overall continued to meet the requisite high standards of safety and security to protect workers and the public. Where shortfalls have been identified, we will focus our efforts in order to secure the sustainable improvements we require.

"In presenting this report, I highlight the importance of the industry applying increased attention in three key areas.
"Firstly, there are significant challenges associated with ageing facilities, which require sustained focus and commitment to ongoing investment in plant, people and processes to ensure continued safe and secure operation, such that hazards are adequately controlled.

"We have also observed that certain sectors of the industry have experienced a reduction in conventional health and safety performance, and renewed efforts are required to ensure this performance improves and the trend reversed. This is particularly relevant as considerable work is either underway or planned by the nuclear industry in new build construction, post-operational clean out, decommissioning and demolition.

"Thirdly, the implementation of our Security Assessment Principles across the sector is a real opportunity to deliver improved organisational ownership and cultural change on security matters. To this end, my inspectors will be seeking to ensure that dutyholders embed an effective security culture across their organisations."

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