All in a day’s work

28 February 2001

Ensuring the security of nuclear facilities and nuclear material in transit is a task that is often regarded as a liability. For the UKAEA Constabulary, however, security and safety are a daily business.

It is very easy for plant operators to regard security as an unnecessary expense. However, this is not the viewpoint of the UKAEA Constabulary, which is responsible for the protection of nuclear material on UKAEA sites and during transit.

The Constabulary was formed in 1954 as part of UKAEA. When BNFL and Urenco were created, the Constabulary’s responsibilities were extended to cover these sites as well.

The Constabulary’s primary objective is the protection of nuclear material. However, it also draws on broader concepts traditional in other police forces: the protection of life and property; the preservation of the peace and the prosecution of offenders; and the prevention and detection of crime.

With increasing levels of public concern with regard to safety and security, there is increasing pressure on the police to provide a more effective service. At the same time, plant owners are keen to reduce overhead costs. As a result, the Constabulary is under increasing pressure to provide a cost-effective and optimised service.

In order to achieve this, Bill Pryke, Chief Constable of the UKAEA Constabulary, said that he welcomes this challenge, and that it provides an excellent focus for the force, enabling it to look at its core business and concentrate on this.

“We have come a long way down the route of best value,” Pryke said.

The emphasis has to be on public accountability and transparency. This is a key to winning the trust of the public.

How to succeed

The UKAEA Constabulary consists of about 530 officers covering eight sites (Capenhurst, Chapelcross, Culham, Dounreay, Harwell, Sellafield, Springfields and Winfrith). In addition to providing protection for these sites, UKAEAC has also provided armed escorts for shipments of MOX fuel from the UK to Japan.

To successfully police a nuclear facility, UKAEAC finds that it is most effective to treat the facility as though it were a small town. This provides reassurance to the workers that they can continue with their business without fear of disruption.

Probably the key elements to achieving full effectiveness are:

•Focus. It is important to concentrate on the key tasks without being distracted by extraneous matters.

•Enthusiasm. Maintaining a high level of morale is crucial towards maintaining a drive towards efficiency.

•Professionalism. Without professional officers, it is not possible to provide a professional, effective service.

•Communication. Good communication is essential to conduct and co-ordinate operations over such large distances.

Accountability and transparency

The emphasis has to be for the force to be fully accountable. This is important in order to win the trust of the public. In the past, the nuclear industry has sometimes been less than fully transparent, which has led to public unease regarding the industry. This in turn has led to public distrust of the industry, which continues to make development difficult.

In the early days of the industry, for various reasons, information to the public about the industry tended to be restricted. Now, the public is far more inquisitive, and there have been new laws passed to ensure that there is greater disclosure of information. Pryke believes that if industry is secretive, the public becomes suspicious, resulting in difficulties for effective policing.

Distributed expertise

The UKAEAC has a presence at eight different sites. This is an advantage in developing best practice, as it is possible to compare different practices at different sites, and adopt the best.

This assumes and requires there to be good communication between the sites, and a willingness to adopt new practices where necessary. This requires a particular attitude of mind, with a strong desire to improve.

Pryke says that it is important for the force to know where it wants to be in the short, medium and long term.

It is also an important part of the development of the force that it looks to exchanging best practice with the contacts it has with external organisations. In particular, UKAEAC’s links with Japanese, French and US organisations are very strong, and a great deal has been learnt.


In both the nuclear industry and in many police forces, recruitment of quality applicants can be difficult. Pryke says that this is not the case with UKAEAC. As an example, he cited a recent campaign by UKAEAC to attract recruits for about 20 possible places, which actually attracted a total of 3,600 applicants.

Why is there this enthusiasm? Pryke sees three basic reasons.

•Clear focus. People have to know and understand what their goal is and what is required of them in order to be effective. If you keep the focus clear, people can see what effect they are having, which boosts morale.

•It should be made clear what standards are expected. When those standards are achieved or exceeded, then the individuals should be rewarded.

•Dealing with problems. There will inevitably be disagreements. What is important is how these are dealt with. The problems are issues that have to be dealt with. The key to doing this, according to Pryke, is for both sides to listen and speak with good grace, and for both sides to consider what the other is saying. It is obvious and simple, but it is surprisingly often neglected. It is also important – and obvious – that when a business case has been made, it must be supported.

In essence, empowerment must be linked with responsibility. The principles of good management remain the same regardless of the size of the organisation.

Foreign liaison

It is interesting to note that as best practices spread to the various national police bodies, the move towards a unified international body grows. UKAEAC sees no threat in this; believing that the time that an organisation is in difficulty is when it believes it no longer has any need to improve. Such an organisation is stagnating.

“Old style management does not stand up to scrutiny in the modern world,” Pryke says. Budgets should be exactly correct, and should not contain any fat.

Report on the constabulary

The Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) recently carried out an inspection of UKAEAC. The inspection was intended to assess the effectiveness of the force.

Overall, the report was a positive one. UKAEAC’s drive to manage resources efficiently, its contingency planning, and the professionalism of its armed capability were all praised. The report made 14 recommendations for improvement.

•Internal consultation with all staff should be improved.

•A senior management team structure should be formed

to improve policy formulation and co-ordination.

•The performance review of operational units and departments should be more rigorous, based on written accounts of performance against local plans and a defined set of force-wide performance indicators.

•The finance manager should be answerable to the chief constable.

•Prompt action should be taken to enable all operational unit commanders (OUCs) to become full cost centre managers for their units.

•A professionally qualified person, answerable to the chief constable, should manage all UKAEAC’s human resource functions.

•A training strategy should be prepared.

•A management skills training programme, including secondment to other organisations, should be developed.

•Consideration should be given to creating the post of equal opportunities officer.

•All operational units should adopt a tasking system to focus policing activity on priorities identified through analysis of intelligence and other types of management information.

•The national definition of a racial incident, policies and procedures should be adopted.

•Sufficient police dogs should be deployed at all designated sites, enabling 24-hour cover.

•Tactical firearms training, including refresher courses, designed to meet the specialist needs of the force, should be conducted at the constabulary training centre for all supervisory officers.

•Implementation of the outstanding recommendations relating to the escort of nuclear materials following the 1994 inspection should be added to the remit of the escort review group.

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