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ONR's Head of Innovation speaks at international nuclear congress

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was recently represented at the 7th World Nuclear Industry Congress in London by David Smeatham, ONR’s Head of Innovation, who spoke about the organisation’s commitment to embrace innovation.

The World Nuclear Industry Congress brought together companies, regulators and other organisations from the global nuclear sector to share the latest developments, issues and opportunities across new build, decommissioning and waste management.

David was invited to speak about ONR’s approach to enabling innovation as part of the ‘National Policy and Regulatory Framework’ session.

Innovation can be defined as the implementation of new ideas that generate value. As the UK’s nuclear regulator, ONR has committed to actions that support innovation where it is in the interest of society and consistent with safety and security expectations.

Innovation has the potential to reduce costs and support carbon net zero targets and has been noted in several including the Nuclear Sector Deal 2018.

Such innovation should:

  • Respond to stakeholder needs;
  • Build on previous work, including work by other sectors;
  • Include new services and ways of working as well as new products where appropriate; and
  • Ultimately provide value to stakeholders.

ONR is also working with domestic and international organisations across the nuclear sector and other sectors to establish consistent approaches to innovation.

For example, earlier this year ONR hosted an expert panel with the Advanced Nuclear Skills and Innovation Campus to discuss the regulation of artificial intelligence in the nuclear industry.

This demonstrated the importance of collaboration, including honest discussions that focus on opportunities as well as weaknesses and risks.

As well as expert panels, during 2022/23 ONR will be providing advice on regulatory expectations around innovation and providing a space for innovators, supported by licensees, dutyholders and organisations in our Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process, to test and trial new solutions.

We are also delivering internal workshops aimed at developing our capability to regulate innovation.

David said: “ONR’s innovation hub aims to enable honest conversations to ensure we can effectively regulate new approaches and explain our regulatory expectations.

“We are committed to promoting a culture of early dialogue with diverse stakeholders that allows the development of fit-for-purpose solutions, while maintaining regulatory independence.”

Read more about this work in the latest edition of ‘Innovation Platform’ magazine.