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Ageing facilities scrutiny nears completion in Chief Nuclear Inspector's themed inspection

Five nuclear sites have been subject to a ‘themed’ inspection carried out by The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) during the last 12 months focusing on the management of ageing facilities.

It is the latest of our thematic inspections, instigated by Chief Nuclear Inspector Mark Foy, this time looking at how the industry manages ageing plants and facilities to ensure the necessary standards of safety and security are maintained.

One of our key aims is to check that Britain has sustainable programmes for managing ageing nuclear facilities and ensuring licensees plan and respond to these inevitable changes.

The final inspection report will identify areas of common challenge, where improvements are required, while establishing where good practice can be shared within the industry and any opportunities to improve ONR’s own regulatory focus.

In late 2020, ONR selected five licensees to be the focus of our inspections, as a representative sample of the industry.

They are the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE Plc), in Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire, EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Limited, at Sizewell B Power Station in Suffolk, Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd (DRDL) in Plymouth, Magnox Limited, at Hinkley Point A in Somerset, and Sellafield Ltd, in Cumbria.

Initially, licensees were asked to carry out self-assessments, at the end of last year, and ONR's own inspections began in June, this year. There have been up to four inspections at some of the sites, depending on their size and number of facilities.

The four elements that were the focus of the self-assessment were followed-up during the site inspections - strategy, organisational capability, obsolescence and ongoing investment.

ONR recently completed its inspections and is currently compiling the final report, which is expected to be published next spring.

The Chief Nuclear Inspector's themed inspections were introduced in 2017 and are designed to examine regulatory matters that are strategic or broader in nature than ONR's more routine regulatory inspection activities. They also raise awareness of important issues and highlight ONR’s regulatory activities and expectations to a wider audience, in addition to the nuclear industry.

Mark Foy, ONR's Chief Nuclear Inspector, said: "The regulatory work that we have undertaken has highlighted and reinforced the continued importance of ensuring that adequate programmes for the management of ageing facilities are in place across the nuclear industry. This particular themed inspection will be crucial to pinpoint good practice and inform future regulatory priorities.

"It is evident from the intelligence gathered by my inspectors, that ageing management is a focus for dutyholders across the nuclear sector but areas for improvement remain.

"The ageing of facilities is entirely expected, and it is necessary to address such issues in a timely manner, taking corrective actions to maintain strong safety and security performance.

"It is for this very reason that we chose this topic as one of our top priorities during the past year and shows ONR is committed to ensuring the highest standards of safety and security are adhered to within the nuclear industry."