IAEA completes review of the UK nuclear regulator

16 October 2009

In mid-October nuclear safety experts concluded a 10-day mission to peer-review the UK Nuclear Regulator: Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Nuclear Directorate (ND). The IAEA commended some of HSE/NDs practices and identified further areas where they feel ND can improve its regulatory effectiveness.

At the request of the UK Government, the International Atomic Energy Agency assembled a team of ten high-level regulatory experts from eight nations to conduct the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission.

The mission was the second of three planned IRRS missions for the United Kingdom. The first was held in March 2006 to begin a process to assess the UK’s readiness to regulate and license new reactor designs, considered as a result of the Energy Policy review in 2005.

The IRRS team leader Mr. William Borchardt, executive director of operations from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said “The IAEA IRRS serves an important role in both benchmarking against its safety standards and in promoting dialogue between nuclear safety regulators from around the world.”

During the 2nd mission the IRRS the team reviewed HSE/ND progress since the first IRRS mission and recent regulatory developments, the regulation of operating power plants and fuel cycle facilities, the inspection and enforcement programme for nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities, and the emergency preparedness and response programme.

The IAEA found that HSE/ND has made significant progress toward improving its effectiveness in regulating existing nuclear power plants and in preparing to license new nuclear reactors designs. Many of the findings identified in the 2006 report had been fully addressed and therefore could be considered closed, the others are being addressed in accordance with a comprehensive action plan.

IRRS team members visited the Heysham 1 nuclear power plant near Lancaster, the Sellafield site at Cumbria and the Strategic Control Centre at Hutton, and they met senior managers from HSE and a UK Government senior adviser.

Mike Weightman, Head of ND and HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations said: “The Nuclear Directorate welcomes this important peer review of our regulatory arrangements and practices as part of our continuing to strive to be at the cutting edge of nuclear regulation worldwide. This review comes at a most important time for us with the government’s proposal to provide us with more freedom and independence to better meet challenges of a changing nuclear industry. We are committed to taking the necessary measures to address the findings made in the IAEA report, when it is finalised, and welcome the recognition of several of our practices as good examples for nuclear regulators around the world.”

The IAEA's report is likely to be finalized towards the end of 2009.

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