UK: DECC And DWP Consults On Restructuring Of HSE´s Nuclear Directorate

Last Updated: 16 July 2009
Article by Munir Hassan and Robert Lane

On 30 June 2009 the Department of Energy and Climate Change ('DECC') and the Department for Work and Pensions ('DWP') launched a joint consultation ('Consultation') on the restructuring of the Health and Safety Executive's ('HSE') Nuclear Directorate ('ND'). In the rapidly developing landscape of new nuclear power in the UK, this Consultation will be of interest to all stakeholders taking part in the 'nuclear renaissance', from commercial operators, to regulatory partners, employees of regulators, current duty holders who are regulated by the ND, and those parts of the Department for Transport ('DfT') that would be affected (namely the Radioactive Materials Transport Team ('RMTT') and the Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate ('TSCD')).

The creation of a single regulator has been largely welcomed by unions, since constraints of civil service sector pay have been identified as previously hindering the recruitment and retention of staff at agencies such as the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

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On 30 June 2009 the Department of Energy and Climate Change ('DECC') and the Department for Work and Pensions ('DWP') launched a joint consultation ('Consultation') on the restructuring of the Health and Safety Executive's ('HSE') Nuclear Directorate ('ND'). In the rapidly developing landscape of new nuclear power in the UK, this Consultation will be of interest to all stakeholders taking part in the 'nuclear renaissance', from commercial operators, to regulatory partners, employees of regulators, current duty holders who are regulated by the ND, and those parts of the Department for Transport ('DfT') that would be affected (namely the Radioactive Materials Transport Team ('RMTT') and the Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate ('TSCD')).

The creation of a single regulator has been largely welcomed by unions, since constraints of civil service sector pay have been identified as previously hindering the recruitment and retention of staff at agencies such as the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

Key Proposals

The Consultation seeks responses to two key proposals to change the current system of nuclear regulation. These are:

  • The creation of a new sector-specific independent regulator, with a predominantly non-executive board, which will report to (i) Ministers in respect of its regulatory functions; and to (ii) Ministers and the HSE in respect of strategies and business planning; and
  • The transfer of the statutory responsibilities for the exercise of transport, security and safeguards functions from the Secretaries of State for Transport, and Energy and Climate Change to the new regulator.

The new regulator would be a statutory corporation (referred to as the Nuclear Statutory Corporation ('NSC'), to be effected by a Legislative Reform Order ('LRO')). The aim of the NSC is to strengthen, focus and improve the organisational framework of nuclear regulation in the UK. This would be an autonomous body within the auspices of the HSE, sponsored by the DWP in the short term, but ultimately by duty holders.

It is envisaged that the NSC would have greater organisational and financial freedom than is available to existing regulators. The Chief Inspector would provide authoritative regulatory leadership, to whom the NSC board would delegate specific or individual regulatory or operational decisions. The Chief Inspector may in turn, delegate certain operational functions to appropriate NSC staff.

Key Details of the Proposals:

  • The NSC would carry out the safety, security, safeguards and transport functions currently carried out by existing regulators. The creation of NSC would result in an organisational restructuring only. The proposals would not change the requirements and standards with which duty/ licence holders must comply;
  • The NSC will act as a regulator of conventional health and safety at nuclear sites working together with HSE. The environmental agencies would continue to regulate the environmental aspects of nuclear activities;
  • The NSC will appoint inspectors to carry out its statutory functions, including enforcement functions;
  • The NSC will be named in legislation as the body responsible for security and safeguards in the UK, and would have the necessary legislative and administrative powers and duties to undertake these functions and ensure compliance with the UK's international security and safeguards obligations;
  • The NSC would act as a competent authority with legislative responsibility for the transport functions of radioactive and civil nuclear materials. Currently the Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for transport functions, and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is responsible for the security of the transport of civil nuclear materials;
  • The NSC would work closely with departmental officials, including within DECC and DfT to provide appropriate specialist advice and regulatory inputs to wider Government decision-making;
  • The position of Chief Inspector will become a statutory office. The NSC board would not be able to take specific individual regulatory or operational decisions (i.e. granting licences or taking enforcement action); and
  • The NSC would not be part of the Civil Service, despite being a public sector organisation, and would have increased freedom to set its own budgets, produce long-term strategy and annual business plans and have the freedom to set competitive remuneration conditions for its staff.

The Consultation also seeks answers to a list of Consultation questions, including whether the estimated cost of creating the NSC is justified by the benefits. The Government estimates that the creation of the NSC would result in a maximum increase of 12-16% of fees payable by duty holders in the first year, with an increase of between 3-7% per annum thereafter.

Timetable

The 12-week Consultation will close on 22 September and the LRO is expected to be laid before Parliament, with Government responses received by the end of 2009. If approved, the LRO will be made in the spring of 2010 with the NSC being created in the autumn of 2010.

For a link to the full Consultation document, including details of how to respond, please click here.

For our previous Law-now on the EU Directive establishing a binding framework on nuclear safety, please click here.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 14/07/2009.

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