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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - ONR Position [31/03/20]

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is continuing to protect society by securing safe nuclear operations during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

ONR ways of working during COVID-19

In response to government advice issued earlier this month, ONR staff are working from home. We have considered our priorities, have deferred non-critical activities, and are carrying out as much of our work as possible via videoconference, phone and email. A limited number of our inspectors can, as key workers, continue to travel to site as necessary to conduct urgent and essential regulatory inspections.

ONR’s role

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health matter and, last week, the government introduced new emergency legislation regarding the enforcement of social distancing measures. ONR does not play a role in enforcing new social distancing measures on nuclear licensed sites. Enforcement of the new legislation is designated to police forces and local authorities.

We will continue to regulate matters under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and associated regulations, and the Energy Act 2013, including ensuring that licensees and dutyholders are adequately resourced to continue to safely and securely carry out their activities.

ONR’s regulation and focus

All licensed sites are required to determine minimum staffing levels necessary to ensure safe and secure operations and contingency arrangements in the event that these levels are not met. This condition is specifically designed to ensure that industry can adequately manage and control activities that could impact on nuclear safety and security under all foreseeable circumstances, including pandemics.

We are engaged on a daily basis with licensees and dutyholders to ensure that their activities are appropriately resourced. Should we have any concerns about staffing levels or welfare that could potentially impact nuclear safety and security, we will immediately address these with licensees and dutyholders as necessary.

Nuclear sites have been reducing non-essential activities so as to protect staff, infrastructure, and the public. As always, we are regulating those activities to ensure they are carried out safely and securely.

In due course, we will work with industry to re-plan activity for when operations return to normal.