Civil Nuclear Constabulary

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Civil Nuclear Constabulary
Abbreviation CNC
Cnc logo1.jpg
Agency overview
Formed 2005
Annual budget £57m (entire Civil Nuclear Police Authority)[1]
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United Kingdom
Map of CNC Divisions
Legal jurisdiction UK civil nuclear sites
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Culham
Sworn members 750[2]
Agency executive Mike Griffiths CBE, Chief Constable
Divisions 2
Stations 11

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) (Welsh: Heddlu Sifil Niwclear) is a special police force responsible for providing law enforcement and security at or within 5 km of any relevant nuclear site and for nuclear materials in transit within the United Kingdom.[3]

The CNC was established on 1 April 2005,[4] 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 role of the CNC is to provide security for civil nuclear establishments and materials, throughout the United Kingdom.[5][6] The Constabulary is established in Chapter 3, sections 51–71, of the Energy Act 2004.[7] 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 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary must inspect the force and amends several other acts. It falls under the remit of the newly formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy instead of the Home Office.

The CNC's Annual Report (page 19) 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."[citation needed] Whilst the CNC are a police force, this acknowledgement would suggest the role of a CNC Police Officer is that of providing armed security, rather than primarily being concerned with law enforcement.

During the year 2010-11, the CNC made 12 arrests,[8] although 2 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).

Since 1 October 2012 the Chief Constable of the CNC has been Michael Griffiths.[9]

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 company Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited,[10] which specialise in transporting spent nuclear fuel and reprocessed uranium on behalf of the British Nuclear Fuels organisation.[11] Such ships have an onboard escort of armed police.[12][13]

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".[14]

Legal jurisdiction[edit]

CNC police officers have the same powers as regular police officers, but with jurisdiction limited to those set out in the Energy Act 2004, which are:

  • 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 CNC operates at a total of 11 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.

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, 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).


The CNC operates with all of its constables acting as Authorised Firearms Officers.[15] Many of the officers can be seen patrolling their respective sites carrying firearms such as assault rifles and pistols. All officers complete firearms training as per the National Firearms Training Curriculum. This curriculum is also followed to train Operational, Tactical and Strategic commanders in the force along with Tactical Advisors and Post Incident Managers.

The core weapon system for CNC AFOs is the Heckler & Koch G36, as well as this all officers are equipped with Glock 17 sidearms. All officers are additionally equipped with less-lethal weapons for use against threats that do not justify a firearms response. Such options include PAVA, Taser, ASP and Baton Launchers.

The uniform of the force is similar to that of other police forces in the UK. The current uniform replaced the traditional Metropolitan Police-style uniforms in July 2008. A new, more practical uniform was introduced from October 2015. Officers wear body armour similar to that of other UK Police Authorised Firearms Officers. CNC officers are also trained in the use of CBRN equipment. All CNC firearms officers are trained to D13 standards to administer medical care. Additionally some officers are trained to Tactical Care Officer standard and carry additional equipment such as paramedic bergans and defibrillators. These officers regularly attend off site incidents as first responders to render aid to injured parties.

The force uses a large number of Ford S-Max patrol and response vehicles, as well as a number of Mitsubishi Shogun patrol vehicles along with OVIK Crossway ballistic protection vehicles. The force also runs a number of BMW X5s for use as escort vehicles. Driver training is provided to national standards at Police Scotland Headquarters. The vehicle fleet is managed by the Chiltern Transport Consortium, led by Thames Valley Police. All are registered with 'OU' vehicle registration plate area prefixes.


Funding comes from the companies which run 11 nuclear plants in the UK. Around a third is paid by the private consortium managing Sellafield, which is largely owned by American and French firms. Nearly a fifth of the funding is provided by British Energy, the privatised company owned by EDF. In June 2009 the 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 security services.[16]

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 Ministry of Defence Police. Unlike these other two forces, the CNC were not included in the provisions setting out 'extended jurisdiction' as per the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[17] 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[18] & 98[19] (mutual aid between police forces of England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and BTP) or Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 section 3a[20] (mutual aid from MDP). However section 59[21] 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 the summer of 2005 officers of the CNC were part of the massive police operation involving nearly all police forces of the United Kingdom in connection with the G8 conference near Gleneagles, Scotland.[22]

Officers were seconded to Cumbria Constabulary as support during the floods of 2009.

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.[23]

Officers have also been deployed to the 2012 London Olympics and twenty-eight officers to the recent NATO conference in Wales.[24]

During 2015 ten officers were also seconded to the British Transport Police on the London Underground for a period of time to cover the shortfall in firearms officers in London.[25]

On 27 March 2016, the Daily Telegraph, post-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.' [26]

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.' [27]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "What's the Role of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary - Where Do They Work?". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  3. ^ ss.56 and 198 Energy Act 2004
  4. ^ "What's the Background to the CNC Organisation?". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  5. ^ Energy Act 2004
  6. ^ "Our Role". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 20 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  7. ^ "Energy Act 2004". HMSO. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  8. ^ FOI Disclosure
  9. ^ "CNC Organisation Chart 1 August 2013" (PDF). Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "PNTL Fleet". Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Nuclear fuel ship docks in Japan". BBC News. 27 September 1999. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  12. ^ Brown, Paul (20 January 1999). "Nuclear fuel ships to be armed with heavy guns". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  13. ^ "UK British nuclear fuel ships armed". BBC News. 8 July 1999. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  14. ^ Secret files reveal covert network run by nuclear police
  15. ^ "What do the CNC do?". Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 
  16. ^ Secret files reveal covert network run by nuclear police
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  23. ^ 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. 
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