Five sites have been selected for the next phase of the UK Chief Nuclear Inspector’s (CNI’s) themed inspection on climate change. The CNI themed inspections were introduced in 2017 and are designed to examine regulatory matters that are strategic or broader in nature than the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s (ONR’s) more routine regulatory inspection activities. They also raise awareness of important issues and highlight ONR’s regulatory activities and expectations to a wider audience, in addition to the nuclear industry.

ONR has chosen Heysham 2, Sizewell B, Sellafield, Dounreay and the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE – Aldermaston and Burghfield) to be taken forward to the inspection stage. The inspections will take place between April and December.

This follows a completed ONR review of self-assessment questionnaires from the industry on their arrangements for and resilience to climate change effects. ONR says these five sites provide a cross-section of the industry and selections have been based on factors including site lifetimes, safety significance and opportunities for learning.

Focus will be placed on how sites are considering climate change in their hazard definitions and arrangements, the types of external hazards affected by climate change that pose the biggest challenge to nuclear facilities, and longer-term considerations of climate change in view of potential uncertainties with climate science evolution.

ONR’s themed inspection team has been engaging regularly with the environment agencies – Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency – and also taking the opportunity to maintain valuable dialogues with overseas nuclear regulators about how they are addressing this topic.

ONR recently hosted a meeting with the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), the Dutch Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), and Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) to share learning and experiences.

“It is essential that nuclear licensed sites remain safe and secure against the effects of climate change and that all reasonably-foreseeable impacts of climate change over the lifetime of a facility should be taken into account,” said Alexandra Edey, Nuclear Safety Inspector. “We look forward to entering this next important stage of the CNI themed inspection to gain first-hand insight of the industry’s ongoing plans to adapt and mitigate for future climate change challenges.”

ONR said in February that it will begin Climate Adaptation Reporting later this year, under powers given to the government. The ONR report, which will be published in December, will outline how climate change could impact on UK nuclear facilities, the industry’s response, and any potential impact on regulation.

Split into two parts, the Climate Adaptation Reporting will encompass both ONR’s internal and external approaches to ensure effective regulation. It will also provide a high-level summary of the industry’s developing arrangements and monitor its level of preparedness for this issue, which is an ONR priority.

Andria Gilmour, ONR’s Civil Engineering & External Hazards Lead for Nuclear Safety, said: “Taking part in Climate Adaptation Reporting will allow us to effectively communicate even more about how we regulate the current and future impact on the nuclear industry from the potential effects of climate change.

After being submitted, Adaptation Reports will be analysed by Cranfield University, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Adapting to Climate Change Programme, and lead government departments. Reports will be published in due course and allow for areas of good practice to be highlighted, helping to compare and contrast how different organisations are assessing and responding to the impacts of climate change.