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Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Office for Nuclear Regulation
Statutory corporation overview
Formed2011 (2011)
JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
HeadquartersBuilding 4, Redgrave Court, Merton Road, Bootle L20 7HS
Employees651 (as at 31 March 2021)
Annual budget£95.04m (2021/22)
Statutory corporation executives
  • Mark Foy, Chief Executive/Chief Nuclear Inspector
  • Mark McAllister, Chair

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is the regulator for the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom.[1] It is an independent statutory corporation whose costs are met by charging fees to the nuclear industry. The ONR reports to the Department for Work and Pensions, although it also worked closely with the now-defunct Department of Energy and Climate Change.[2]


The establishment of the ONR followed a 2008 review conducted on behalf of the Government into the regulation of the UK civil nuclear industry, recommending the creation of a single industry-specific regulator. The ONR was created on 1 April 2011 as a non-statutory agency of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with the Government intending to put the ONR on a statutory basis at a later date.[3] The ONR was formed from the merger of the HSE's Nuclear Directorate (the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the Office for Civil Nuclear Security and the UK Safeguards Office) and — from 1 June 2011 — the Department for Transport's Radioactive Materials Transport Team.[4] Legislation to establish the ONR was included in the Energy Act 2013, and it was formally launched as an independent statutory corporation on 1 April 2014.[5] ONR’s original mission (as detailed in the DWP/ONR Framework document) was: "To provide efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry, holding it to account on behalf of the public". The 2013 Energy Act specified that ONR's five statutory purposes were: Nuclear safety; Nuclear site health and safety; Civil Nuclear security; Nuclear safeguards; Transport of radioactive materials.[6]

The ONR is governed by a ten-member board, and is accountable to Parliament through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in matters of finance, governance and non-nuclear health and safety.[7] Nick Baldwin CBE, former chief executive of Powergen (now E.ON UK) was appointed part-time interim chair of the ONR on its formation,[1] resigning as a non-executive director of Scottish and Southern Energy.[8] On 21 February 2019, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced that Mark McAllister would succeed Baldwin as Chair of the Board. Mark McAllister began his five-year appointment as ONR Chair on 1 April 2019.[9] The ONR Board oversees the operation of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chief Nuclear Inspector (CNI). John Jenkins, who was CEO from 2013 to 2015, resigned from his post on 28 February 2015 and was replaced by Les Philpott on 1 March 2015 as the Interim Chief Executive. Adriènne Kelbie was appointed Chief Executive and took up the appointment on 18 January 2016.[10] In October 2017 Mark Foy was appointed Chief Nuclear Inspector; he was previously the Deputy Chief Nuclear Inspector.[11]

New leadership arrangements commenced on 1 June 2021 which saw Mark Foy become ONR's combined Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector.[12] Donald Urquhart was appointed Executive Director of Regulation and Sarah High as Deputy Chief Executive. Additionally, Paul Fyfe was appointed as Director of Regulation Civil Nuclear Security and Safeguards, Jane Bowie was appointed as Director of Regulation for New Reactors, Mike Finnerty was appointed Director of Regulation Operating Facilities, Paul Dicks was appointed Director of Regulation Sellafield, Decommissioning Fuel and Waste and Steve Vinson was appointed Technical Director.

As of 2021 the ONR had about 650 staff and a budget of £95.05 million, which was largely cost-recovered from users, with a 2% grant from the DWP.

Generic Design Assessment process[edit]

Following the 2006 Energy review the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate developed the Generic Design Assessment process (GDA), now operated by ONR, to assess new nuclear reactor designs ahead of site-specific proposals.[13] The GDA initially started assessing four designs:

However the ACR-1000 and ESBWR were subsequently withdrawn from the assessment for commercial reasons,[14][15] leaving the EPR and AP1000 as contenders for British new nuclear builds.[16][17] Assessment of the AP1000 was suspended in December 2011 at Westinghouse's request, awaiting a firm UK customer before addressing issues raised by the assessment.[18][19]

In 2012 Hitachi purchased Horizon Nuclear Power, announcing intent to build two to three 1,350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) on both of Horizon's sites.[20] The GDA was agreed in April 2013.[18]

In August 2014 Westinghouse resumed the AP1000 assessment, after Toshiba and ENGIE purchased NuGeneration and announced plans to develop Moorside Nuclear Power Station with 3 AP1000s. In November 2016 the ONR noted there was a "very large amount of assessment to complete with issues still emerging".[21][22] On 30 March 2017 the AP1000 successfully completed the GDA process,[23] ironically the day after the designer, Westinghouse, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of $9 billion of losses from its nuclear reactor construction projects, mostly the construction of four AP1000 reactors in the U.S.[24]

On 21 September 2015 Energy Secretary Amber Rudd announced that a Chinese designed nuclear power station was expected to be built at Bradwell nuclear power station.[25][26][27] On 19 January 2017 the GDA process for the Hualong One (HPR1000) started,[28] and successfully finished in February 2022.[29]

The ABWR GDA process completed successfully in December 2017.[30]

2020 process update[edit]

In 2020, the GDA process was updated to be more suitable for small modular reactors and advanced nuclear technologies. A three step process was introduced:[31]

  • Step 1: initiates GDA and agrees scope and timescales, identifying any immediate gaps in meeting regulatory expectations.
  • Step 2: fundamental assessment of the generic safety, security, and environment protection cases, to identify any potential "show-stoppers" that may preclude deployment of the design.
  • Step 3: detailed assessment of the generic safety, security, and environment protection cases on a sampling basis.

On 1 April 2022, the GDA Step 1 of the 470 MWe Rolls-Royce SMR started.[32] Step 2 will begin once the timescales and resources have been agreed.[33]

Nuclear defence activities[edit]

Although the ONR is primarily a civil regulator, the ONR Defence Programme regulates military nuclear and conventional safety across a number of licensed and non-licensed nuclear sites, which are operated for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) nuclear defence capability. This is carried out under a complex legal regime, in conjunction with MOD’s Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR). The ONR does not influence the design of submarine nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons, and does not regulate security or transport of MOD nuclear materials.[34]

ONR responsibility includes assessing the response systems for nuclear weapon accidents at HMNB Clyde and RNAD Coulport, in Argyll, Scotland.[35]

Since about 2013 the ONR has given the two major Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites enhanced regulatory attention due to "safety and compliance concerns, and the continued undertaking of operations in ageing facilities due to delays to the delivery of modern standard replacement facilities." The ONR anticipated AWE would move back to normal regulatory attention in 2021 after the new facilities are completed.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b New UK nuclear industry regulator launched Archived 9 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine HSE, accessed 3 April 2011
  2. ^ "Who we work with". ONR. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  3. ^ Creation of the Office for Nuclear Regulation – Written ministerial statement from the Department for Work and Pensions Archived 30 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine published 2011-02-08, accessed 3 April 2011
  4. ^ Proposed changes to the way we work Archived 30 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine HSE, accessed 3 April 2011
  5. ^ "ONR becomes Public Corporation". ONR. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  6. ^ "DWP/ONR Framework document" (PDF). Office for Nuclear Regulation. February 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  7. ^ "UK regulator outlines plan to 'remain fit for future'". World Nuclear News. 7 July 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  8. ^ Baldwin leaves SSE board Herald Scotland, published 2011-04-02, accessed 3 April 2011
  9. ^ "Mark McAllister appointed as ONR Chair". ONR. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  10. ^ "ONR announces new Chief Executive". ONR. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  11. ^ "UK gets new chief nuclear inspector". Nuclear Engineering International. 30 October 2017. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  12. ^ "New leadership structure implemented". ONR. June 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Background – assessment of new nuclear power stations". Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  14. ^ "AECL bows out of British reactor development to focus on Canadian projects". CBC News. 4 April 2008. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  15. ^ "Interview: "We will be back" in Europe, says GE". Nuclear Engineering International. 15 September 2009. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  16. ^ "New Nuclear Power Stations – Progress so far". Health and Safety Executive. Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  17. ^ "News – Taking GDA work forward in the light of the unprecedented events in Japan". Health and Safety Executive. Archived from the original on 28 December 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  18. ^ a b "UK starts ABWR design assessment". World Nuclear News. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  19. ^ Twidale, Susanna (30 March 2017). "Westinghouse set to win UK reactor approval". Reuters. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  20. ^ "Hitachi buys UK nuclear project from E.On and RWE". BBC. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  21. ^ "UK regulator reports 'slippage' in assessment of AP1000 design". World Nuclear News. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  22. ^ "UK regulators question Westinghouse's target date for AP1000 GDA". World Nuclear News. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Westinghouse AP1000 completes GDA process in the UK". Nuclear Engineering International. 3 April 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Westinghouse files for bankruptcy". Nuclear Engineering International. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  25. ^ George Parker (21 September 2015). "UK paves path for west's first China-designed nuclear reactor". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  26. ^ "China ready to build new nuclear plant at Bradwell-on-Sea". Essex Chronicle. 21 September 2015. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  27. ^ "UK to start regulatory assessment of Chinese design". World Nuclear News. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  28. ^ "UK GDA reports good progress for AP1000 and UK ABWR". Nuclear Engineering International. 23 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  29. ^ "Regulators complete UK HPR1000 design assessment". Nuclear Engineering International. 10 February 2022. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Hitachi-GE ABWR design cleared for use in UK". World Nuclear News. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  31. ^ "Entry to Generic Design Assessment for Advanced Nuclear Technologies: Instructions and Guidance for Requesting Parties" (PDF). Department for Energy Security & Net Zero. July 2023. Retrieved 31 December 2023 – via gov.uk.
  32. ^ "Rolls-Royce SMR begins UK Generic Design Assessment". Nuclear Engineering International. 4 April 2022. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  33. ^ "Current reactors being assessed". Office for Nuclear Regulation. Retrieved 20 December 2022.
  34. ^ Regulation of GB's Defence Nuclear Programme (PDF) (Report). Office for Nuclear Regulation. January 2019. NS-INSP-GD-056. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  35. ^ "HM Naval Base Clyde – Quarterly report for 1 July 2011 to 30 September 2011". Bootle: Office for Nuclear Regulation, Health and Safety Executive. Archived from the original on 8 July 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  36. ^ "Safety concerns over Berkshire nuclear weapons factories". BBC News. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.

External links[edit]