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Energy: Nuclear Regulation

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2009


My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mike O’Brien) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In January 2008, following publication of the White Paper on nuclear power, the Government asked Dr Tim Stone to conduct a review of nuclear regulation. Dr Stone has now reported his findings, and today, 27 January 2009, we publish the recommendations of his review and the Government’s response.

Dr Stone agrees with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s conclusion that the UK’s nuclear regulatory arrangements are mature and transparent, with highly trained and experienced inspectors. However, in the context of a rapidly changing nuclear environment, Dr Stone was asked to provide a comprehensive assessment of the nuclear regulators’ immediate and longer-term needs. He recommends that in the short term the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) nuclear installations inspectorate (NII) should have greater ability to recruit effectively in order to meet the short-term challenges of new build, such as generic design assessment, alongside the work on existing installations. Dr Stone recommends that in the medium term, the NII and the wider nuclear directorate of the HSE be structured to give it greater financial and organisational flexibility so that it can remain a world-class regulator.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Work and Pensions, in response to Dr Stone’s proposals, recognise that the NII, in order to meet its challenges, will need additional resources to boost recruitment and retention of staff, and the recommendations are targeted at improving this. We have worked with colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions and at HM Treasury to put the appropriate facilities in place to ensure that effective recruitment and retention measures can be taken. The Government also recognise that the organisation needs greater operational and financial flexibility within the auspices of the HSE to meet the challenges of nuclear regulation into the future. To this effect, the Government expect to bring forward legislative proposals that will address these issues.

Copies of Dr Stone’s summary recommendations and the government response are today placed in the Libraries of both Houses.