Government is presently consulting on institutional reforms in the nuclear sector, put together following a nuclear regulatory review conducted by Tim Stone, a senior Government Advisor. The Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Works and Pensions propose to create a new independent regulator to be known as the Nuclear Statutory Corporation. On the face of it, this is just one more proposal to meet the objectives of regulatory reform. The stated intention is to improve the organisational framework for the sustained delivery of robust, effective and efficient nuclear regulation in the UK in the context of a rapidly changing global nuclear environment, without changing the regulatory standards in any way. However, the new arrangements may have unintended consequences.
The new regulator is to be a statutory corporation with responsibility for the functions currently carried out by Nuclear Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Department for Transport’s Radioactive Materials Transport Team and those functions of its Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate which relate to the transport of radioactive materials. The Nuclear Directorate is made up of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the Office for Civil Nuclear Security and the UK Safeguards Office. Government proposes to make these changes through a Legislative Reform Order made under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.
Under the existing arrangements, the Nuclear Directorate is integrated within HSE and is able to influence and benefit from wider activities within the organisation, including the commissioning of research. Although the new body will remain under the auspices of the HSE, there are concerns that divorcing the Nuclear Statutory Corporation from its parent bodies may weaken the interactions so that the benefits of bringing nuclear regulatory functions together are offset by the disadvantages of isolation. The HSE has already disbanded the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee (NuSac), its long-standing advisory committee on nuclear safety although it is believed that is sub-committee on research continues to exist for the time being. The decision to disband NuSAC was made in the expectation of changes in governance but it is not clear yet how the Nuclear Statutory Corporation will take things forward. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management’s report on R&D for radioactive waste management, which is currently out for consultation, has highlighted the complicated arrangements for research governance in this area. It is by no means clear that this apparent rationalisation will do anything other than add further complications. CoRWM is calling for a national overview and direction for R&D for radioactive waste management. It will be interesting to see how the Nuclear Statutory Corporation will address the issue.
The consultation on the Nuclear Statutory Corporation ends on September 22. The consultation document and details of how to respond are available at www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/hse_restruct/hse_restruct.aspx . CoRWM’s draft report on research and development (CoRWM Document 2543) is available at www.corwm.org.uk .