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UK Office for Nuclear Regulation publishes annual review of industry performance

26 October 2021

On October 19, the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) published its annual report detailing the performance of Great Britain’s nuclear industry during 2020/21. The Chief Nuclear Inspector, Mark Foy, reports that the industry has performed well overall and the required standards of safety, security and safeguards have been maintained.

Announcing the publication of the report, ONR said that in cases where standards have fallen below its expectations, inspectors have intervened to secure timely improvements. For the first time, the annual review also features observations from Donald Urquhart who, in a new role of Executive Director of Operations, is responsible for leading the regulatory team in its delivery of its statutory purposes.

Mark Foy praises the nuclear industry for adapting well to the challenges of COVID-19 – implementing pandemic contingency plans to good effect. He also notes several good practices across the sector including: the development of a training facility by Sellafield Ltd to practice the retrieval of radioactive waste from a legacy silo; improvements by Magnox Ltd in its approach to conventional health and safety risk; the ‘intelligent’ replication of design between the Sizewell C project and Hinkley Point C; and the effective management of specialist resources by EDF through the centralising of its technical capability.

ONR said that it has again challenged the industry to maintain increased attention on three overarching themes and to continue to work collaboratively to address these common challenges. The first theme is a continued focus on the industry’s management of ageing facilities. To support this, ONR is carrying out a themed inspection examining a cross section of nuclear sites to identify challenges, good practice and inform future regulatory priorities. Findings are due to be published in spring 2022.

Conventional health and safety performance again features as an area of scrutiny, particularly in light of the considerable construction and decommissioning work across the sector. There is also a new theme of ‘leadership for safety and security culture.’ This will see ONR directing increased attention towards leadership in recognition of the vital role it plays in driving positive safety and security culture and associated performance in organisations.

Last year’s thematic focus ‘delivering a holistic approach to security’ has been reduced to more routine attention in light of positive progress in this area. Plans to review future pandemic resilience arrangements across the industry have been postponed until 2022/23 while the recovery from COVID-19 is ongoing, ONR said.

Mark Foy said: “Our primary mission is to protect society, accomplished by a regulatory regime of inspection, assessment, and engagement. The pandemic challenged our normal ways of working and I was pleased with how our regulatory teams adapted, gaining assurance on the standards of safety, security and safeguards performance by the industry in new and innovative ways.

“Equally, the industry responded well to the pandemic as part of a controlled and effectively managed response that has ensured the continued safety and security of its activities, including those associated with critical national infrastructure, high-hazard legacy facilities, and the transport of radioactive materials.

Mark Foy (L) and Donald Urquhart (R)
Mark Foy (L) and Donald Urquhart (R)

“My thanks to the professional and dedicated team at ONR. Our staff have applied themselves to great effect during these challenging times – their adaptability ensuring our continued effectiveness as the nuclear safety, security, and safeguards regulator.”

Donald Urquhart said: “In previous reports, Mark has highlighted key priorities for which there is a need for wider industry improvement. I am pleased to note progress across these areas over the last year but am mindful of the need for industry to sustain its focus in the areas detailed in this year’s report.

“Given the importance of organisational culture and behaviours in securing high standards of safety and security, I will increase our focus on the quality of safety and security leadership across the organisations that we regulate, and on better understanding and influencing, where appropriate, organisational cultures and behaviours.

“Correspondingly, to reflect our organisational values, I will also look to develop our own culture of diversity and inclusion and to maximise collaboration, co-operation and consistency across our regulatory purposes.”

The report PDF also features details and analysis of safety events reported by industry duty holders between April 2020 and March 2021, as well as ONR’s annual Research Statement.

Read the report in full by clicking here.


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