To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, pursuant to the contribution of the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change of 17 June 2015, Official Report, columns 108-112WH, what the evidential basis is for the statement that the UK has one of the most robust regulatory regimes in the world for nuclear power.
The UK regulatory regime is based upon the principle of an independent regulator backed up by sanctions. The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2006 and 2009 concluded that the regulatory arrangements of the then HSE Nuclear Directorate were mature and transparent, with highly trained, expert and experienced staff. A third and final review in 2013 commended the systematic way in which ONR had taken into account previous recommendations and the significant progress made in many areas, including on engagement with licensees, assessment of emergency preparedness and response capability, and regulatory guidance. A progress mission to the UK was carried out in November 2014, which concluded that the majority of the recommendations could be closed. The 2014 IRRS report also commented that ONR’s progress “represents a significant achievement and demonstrates the UK and ONR’s commitment to high standards of nuclear safety and the benefits of the IRRS process.”
Further steps have been taken by the Government to strengthen the UK regulatory regime in the Energy Act 2013, which established the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) as an independent statutory corporation. The Energy Act 2013 also included steps to increase the transparency of nuclear regulation and the accountability of the organisation more generally by statutory requirements to publish and lay before Parliament a five year strategy, an annual plan, an annual report and accounts and for directions made by my rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State to be laid before Parliament. Additionally, the ONR publishes an annual assurance statement by the Chief Nuclear Inspector, as part of its annual report and accounts, which is designed to provide independent assurance to the public about the delivery of ONR’s regulatory functions.
The UK regulatory arrangements are considered an example to other countries. At the 5th Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management in May 2015, the UK regulatory approach to risk reduction and remediation at Sellafield was recognised as ‘good practice,’ meaning a practice that makes a significant contribution to safety and is applicable to other states with comparable programmes of hazard reduction.