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UK regulator projects 10% annual growth in 'frontline' staff to 2020

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) plans to increase its "frontline resources" by 9-10% each year until 2020, according to the Strategic Plan it published last week. This is needed to ensure the ONR can "respond positively" to an increase in regulatory demand from the period of "substantial growth" that the country's nuclear industry is experiencing.

The ONR is entering its third year of operation as a public body. For the past two years it says it has been establishing itself as a new organisation including, most recently, "refreshing" its leadership team with the appointment of a new chief executive, Adriènne Kelbie, and a new chief nuclear inspector, Richard Savage, with further appointments to the leadership team planned.

In 2014, the ONR Board published its Strategy in which it set out its vision for the ONR to become "an exemplary regulator that inspires respect, trust and confidence".

"Having articulated the vision, we decided it was time to set out in greater detail the factors that will influence our work, the assumptions we have made about the nuclear environment going forward, and how we will deliver on the commitments we made to our key stakeholder groups," the ONR says in the Strategic Plan. The "key stakeholders" are the public, ministers and government; licensees, duty-holders and requesting parties; and staff.

The plan, which will be reviewed and updated annually, incorporates the earlier Strategy, provides a view of the ONR's intentions for the next four years and details its planned activities and budget for 2016-17.

"The next four years hold a range of regulatory challenges for the ONR as we respond to significant changes across the UK nuclear sector, including the start of construction of the first nuclear power station for over 25 years at Hinkley Point C, the potential introduction of new nuclear reactor technology, the continued progress with the clean-up of the nuclear legacy, the start of one of the largest decommissioning projects in Europe, and the potential extension of operation of first generation nuclear facilities," the ONR said.

All of these developments "will be taking place against a backdrop of increasing global security threats," it said. In response to these challenges, the ONR's focus is specifically on "influencing improvements in nuclear safety and security in modernising nuclear regulation; hazard reduction and remediation at Sellafield's legacy facilities; preparing for new nuclear generation, civil and defence; regulating existing civil reactors; and regulating decommissioning and disposal".


As the size of the organisation grows, the ONR's costs will increase, but it will "continually strive to deliver value for money by seeking a range of efficiencies". These will include "ensuring the ratio of administrative to frontline staff is comparable when benchmarked against other similar organisations", it said. Growth projections will be monitored "to ensure the size of the ONR's estate portfolio is flexible and responsive to change".

In its forecast of costs and income for the duration of the plan against the baseline budget in 2015-16, the ONR noted that the majority of the increases relate to the anticipated growth in the number of its nuclear specialists it will recruit.

This growth relates specifically to the anticipated increase in regulatory response to new generic design assessments, applications for new site licences, and new nuclear construction in the civil and defence sectors.

Total costs and total income in 2019-2020 are expected to be £85.4 million ($121.9 million), up from £64 million in 2015-2016. The ONR's total budget expenditure in 2016-2017 is expected to be £68.8 million, of which £43.5 million will be spent on staff pay.

The ONR is largely funded through cost-recovery from duty-holders - 96% in 2015-16 - and a grant from government. The regulator said it will be seeking to reduce its reliance on the grant "by exploring the extension of charging to those areas of regulation that are not already cost recoverable".

Success in 2020

In describing "what success will look like in 2020", the ONR said it wants to be an organisation that, to the public, ministers and government, "is an exemplar of openness and transparency; a trusted source of independent information and advice about the risks and potential consequences of all aspects of civil nuclear activities, and engages openly and constructively in ways that are accessible to our audiences". In addition, it wants to demonstrate how it "makes a positive difference to nuclear safety and security; holds the nuclear industry to account, including taking robust enforcement action where appropriate; provides evidence-based assurance that nuclear sites are sufficiently safe and secure and that [it operates] to the highest standards of organisational performance".

To its licensees and dutyholders, it wants to be seen to influence change "to create an excellent health, safety and security culture among the operators and to promote sustained excellence in nuclear operations". It seeks to regulate "proportionately, consistently and independently" and make "consistent, transparent and evidence-based decisions". It also aims to be "responsive to the dynamic industry" it regulates, to engage "openly, honestly and with the highest standards of professionalism", and to "operate efficiently to control costs, drive out waste and provide value for money in meeting regulatory need".

2016-2017 plan

In its business plan for the 2016-17 financial year, the ONR includes "influencing improvements in nuclear safety and security". This entails "continuing to deliver effective, prioritised, targeted and proportionate regulation across all programs; publishing the chief nuclear inspector's Summary Program Plan, which sets out the ONR's high-level regulatory milestones for 2016-17; bringing together and clarifying guidance on enabling regulation by March 2017, and beginning to embed the approach across the organisation".

It also includes "inspiring stakeholder respect, trust and confidence", which will involve "providing expert advice to the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the efficacy of the civil nuclear regulatory framework in accordance with DECC's timetable; publishing a stakeholder engagement strategy to direct the delivery of improved opportunities to gather stakeholders' views, and to facilitate the embedding of the ONR's enabling approach to regulation; improving the clarity and purposes of the ONR's international engagement activity to secure the best outcomes for nuclear safety and security in the UK and globally".

In addition, it involves "embedding the new arrangements for managing regulatory research and evaluate outcomes against research strategic objectives; developing and maintaining a national framework of incident reporting for the areas relevant to the ONR as recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency's Integrated Regulatory Review Service Mission; delivering a program of operationally independent reviews to provide assurance to the chief nuclear inspector, the ONR Board and Audit and Risk Assurance Committee that the ONR's regulatory decision making is robust and compliant with published standards and guidance".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Copyright World Nuclear Association 2016. Article first appeared on 29 March 2016 at