Civil Nuclear Constabulary

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Civil Nuclear Constabulary
Agency overview
Preceding agency
Annual budgetcirca £100m[1]
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United Kingdom
Operations jurisdictionUnited Kingdom
Map of CNC Divisions
Legal jurisdictionTypically within 5km of UK nuclear sites
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersCulham Science Centre
OX14 3DB[2]
Sworn membersover 1,500 [3]
Agency executives
Website Edit this at Wikidata

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) (Welsh: Heddlu Sifil Niwclear) is a special police force responsible for providing law enforcement and security at any relevant nuclear site and for security of nuclear materials in transit within the United Kingdom.[4] The force has over 1,500 police officers and support staff.[5] Officers within the force are authorised firearms officers due to the nature of the industry the force protects.[6]

The CNC was established on 1 April 2005,[7] replacing the former Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary established in 1955. The CNC does not guard the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons; this role is the responsibility of the British Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence Police.


The core role of the CNC is to provide armed policing and security for civil nuclear establishments and materials throughout the United Kingdom and to maintain a state of readiness against any possible attack on a licensed nuclear site.[8][9] The CNC is established in Chapter 3, sections 51–71, of the Energy Act 2004.[10] The act sets up the Civil Nuclear Police Authority and the position of chief constable, defines the powers of members of the constabulary, mandates that His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary must inspect the force and amends several other acts. It falls under the remit of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy instead of the Home Office.

The CNC's Annual Report for 2010–2011 (page 15) states that "...the crime dealt with by officers at civil nuclear sites remains low in volume. The management and investigation of crime does not form any part of the Constabulary's mission statement."[11] Whilst the CNC is a police force, this acknowledgement would suggest the role of a CNC police officer is to provide armed security, rather than primarily being concerned with law enforcement. This role is also evidenced in the number of arrests made by the force annually compared with a territorial police force of a similar number of police officers. In 2016, CNC officers made 24 arrests.[12] This compares to Dorset Police, a force with a similar number of officers who made 7,460 arrests annually in the latest annual figures.[13]

During the year 2010–2011, the CNC made 12 arrests,[14] although two of those people were de-arrested at the scene (one when it was realised that the person was not wanted on warrant after all and another where it was decided that police action was not appropriate in relation to an alleged assault).

From 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2019, the chief constable of the CNC was retired Brigadier Michael Griffiths.[15] The Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, formerly of Thames Valley Police, who is also the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for firearms policing, took over as chief constable. The new temporary deputy chief constable is Chris Armitt, formerly of Merseyside Police since 1989, who served for eight years in the Royal Engineers. The new temporary assistant chief constable is Duncan Worsell, who has served with the force throughout his career. Previously, he was divisional commander for the North and Scotland, operational unit commander at Sellafield and chief firearms instructor.

Unlike the majority of the British police territorial forces, all frontline CNC officers are routinely armed while carrying out duties. CNC officers also operate the armament on board the ships of the Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited,[16] a subsidiary of International Nuclear Services, which specialises in transporting spent nuclear fuel and reprocessed uranium on behalf of its ultimate parent, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.[17] Such ships have an onboard escort of armed police.[18][19]

The CNC is authorised to carry out covert intelligence operations against anti-nuclear protesters. In July 2009, Judge Christopher Rose said the CNC's "approach to covert activity is conspicuously professional". He found that the system for storing the intelligence gained from informers was "working well" and that "senior officers regard covert surveillance as a long-term requirement".[20]

Legal jurisdiction[edit]

  • Any place when escorting nuclear materials in transit
  • Any place when pursuing or detaining subjects who have unlawfully removed or interfered with materials guarded by the CNC, or have been reasonably suspected of being guilty of doing so
  • Civil nuclear sites
  • Land around such sites up to 5 km from the boundary
  • Shipyards when safeguarding such nuclear materials

The below section 'Mutual aid' details when this jurisdiction can be extended in support of other forces.


The CNC operates at a total of ten sites in England, Scotland and Wales (there are no "relevant nuclear sites" in Northern Ireland). Of these, three are classed as Operational Units, where an ordinary police presence is maintained, while eight are Support Units, which have an overt armed police presence.

CNC Headquarters
Operational Units
Support Units

In 2007, the CNC adopted a structure similar to other police forces when it introduced three Basic Command Units, each headed by a superintendent, based around the geographical locations it polices. This has now changed to two units, each headed by a chief superintendent as follows:

  • BCU North and Scotland – responsible for nuclear sites in Scotland (Dounreay, Hunterston and Torness) as well as nuclear sites in the north of England (Hartlepool, Heysham and Sellafield)
  • BCU South – responsible for nuclear sites in the south of England (Culham, Dungeness, Harwell, Hinkley Point and Sizewell)
An officer of the CNC with a G36 rifle.


Funding comes from the companies that run ten nuclear plants in the UK. Around a third is paid by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which owns Sellafield. Nearly a fifth of the funding is provided by British Energy, the privatised company owned by EDF. In June 2009, EDF's head of security complained that the force had overspent its budget "without timely and satisfactory explanations to us". The industry acknowledges it is in regular contact with the CNC and the UK security services.[20]

Mutual aid[edit]

The CNC is one of the three special police forces of the United Kingdom, the others being the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police. Unlike these other two forces, the CNC was not included in the provisions setting out 'extended jurisdiction' as per the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[21] This allows officers of the MDP and BTP to act outside their natural jurisdiction in certain circumstances.

The CNC is also not included in mutual aid provisions provided by the Police Act 1996 sections 24[22] and 98[23] (mutual aid between police forces of England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and BTP) or Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 section 3a[24] (mutual aid from MDP). However section 59[25] of the Energy Act 2004 allows CNC officers to act outside their natural jurisdiction in mutual aid situations under agreements between the chief officer of the CNC and the chief officer of a local police force.

In 2005, officers of the CNC were part of the police operation involving nearly all police forces of the United Kingdom in connection with the G8 conference near Gleneagles, Scotland.[26]

Officers were seconded to Cumbria Constabulary as support during the floods of 2009.[citation needed]

On 2 June 2010, 27 CNC officers were deployed to assist Cumbria Constabulary in the manhunt for the gunman Derrick Bird. Along his route across West Cumbria, Bird killed 12 people and injured 25.[27]

Officers were also deployed to the 2012 London Olympics and 28 officers to a 2014 NATO conference in Wales.[28]

For a period of three months during 2015, ten CNC officers were seconded to the British Transport Police's Counter Terrorism Support Unit in London. This detachment helped to cover the shortfall in firearms officer numbers in London in the wake of recent European terror attacks on major cities.[28]

On 27 March 2016, The Daily Telegraph, after the Brussels terrorist attacks, stated: "The Home Secretary has announced there will be a "surge" of more than 1,000 new armed police officers deployed across the country in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Ms May has also changed the law to enable the 1,000 armed police officers guarding Britain's nuclear power stations to be redistributed in the event of multiple terror attacks."[29]

A press release from the CNC and Home Office details the changes made to enable a greater mutual aid role (dated 7 March 2016). It cites the CNC's Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman: "The signing of this collaboration agreement allows chief constables to formally request and receive CNC AFOs to work under his or her jurisdiction for the time period they require. Currently, CNC officers only have policing powers in a five-kilometre radius of a nuclear site, as laid out in the Energy Act 2004, and this agreement removes that restriction should officers be needed to provide support at any force across the country if circumstances require it."[30]

Following the Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May 2017, the force deployed in excess of 450 AFOs across the UK. This deployment occurred following the UK Threat Level being increased from severe to critical. Operation Temperer was activated and the military was deployed to backfill CNC officers at nuclear licensed sites. CNC officers were deployed to support Northumbria Police, Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside Police, South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police, Staffordshire Police, West Midlands Police, and South Wales Police.

The CNC were again deployed on Operation Temperer in 2017 following the 15 September Parsons Green train bombing. Although a shorter deployment, it involved a larger number of officers deployed across the UK.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baraniuk, Chris (4 May 2017). "The officers who protect Britain's nuclear plants". BBC News. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Civil Nuclear Constabulary". Archived from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  3. ^ "About Us Civil Nuclear Constabulary". UK Government. 12 December 2020. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  4. ^ ss.56 and 198 Energy Act 2004
  5. ^ "CNPA Annual Report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 July 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  6. ^ "What do the CNC do?". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  7. ^ "What's the Background to the CNC Organisation?". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  8. ^ Energy Act 2004
  9. ^ "Our Role". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 20 March 2009. Archived from the original on 9 August 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  10. ^ "Energy Act 2004". HMSO. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Civil Nuclear Police Authority: annual report and accounts, 2010 to 2011 – GOV.UK". Archived from the original on 10 December 2017. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Response to an FOI about arrest figures". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  13. ^ "Police powers and procedures, England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2018". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  14. ^ "FOI Disclosure" (PDF). Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 6 October 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  15. ^ "CNC Organisation Chart 1 August 2013" (PDF). Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 1 August 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  16. ^ "PNTL Fleet". Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  17. ^ "Nuclear fuel ship docks in Japan". BBC News. 27 September 1999. Archived from the original on 26 August 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  18. ^ Brown, Paul (20 January 1999). "Nuclear fuel ships to be armed with heavy guns". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  19. ^ "UK British nuclear fuel ships armed". BBC News. 8 July 1999. Archived from the original on 3 April 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  20. ^ a b Evans, Rob (20 October 2009). "Secret files reveal covert network run by nuclear police". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  21. ^ "Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001". HMSO. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Police Act 1996". HMSO. Archived from the original on 7 December 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  23. ^ "Police Act 1996". HMSO. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  24. ^ "Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987". HMSO. Archived from the original on 8 December 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  25. ^ "Energy Act 2004". HMSO. Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  26. ^ "G8 summit 2005". Elan Networks. Archived from the original on 17 January 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  27. ^ Bowcott, Owen; Syal, Rajeev; Lewis, Paul; Davies, Caroline (4 June 2010). "Cumbria shootings: A frantic pursuit before police found the killer's body". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  28. ^ a b "CNC officers thanked for their support to BTP". Civil Nuclear Police Authority and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 28 July 2015. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  29. ^ Hughes, Laura (27 March 2016). "Theresa May's pledge to deploy armed officers risks being undermined as many fear being hounded for shooting suspects". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  30. ^ "CNC and Home Office colleagues sign collaboration agreement". Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2017.

External links[edit]