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ONR’s role in a radiation emergency

ONR is required to communicate with other emergency responders in the event of a radiation emergency by providing independent advice to the relevant authorities at local and national levels. We may also have a subsequent investigatory role to determine the underlying causes of the incident, identify any breaches in legislation, prevent a recurrence and consider appropriate enforcement.

A key aspect of any off-site emergency plan is the setting up of a Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG). The SCG would be attended by the local council, emergency services, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and a number of other relevant organisations. ONR would attend both in an advisory capacity and to facilitate information flow to regulatory colleagues at ONR headquarters and elsewhere.

At a national level, the Government’s Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) would likely be set up, supported by the Lead Government Department (for example, DESNZ or the Ministry of Defence). Within these arrangements, senior ONR representatives (usually our Chief Nuclear Inspector or a nominated deputy) would provide independent advice and guidance to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which would be advising COBR and the Lead Government Department. If the radiation emergency occurred in Scotland or Wales, ONR would also provide advice directly to the Scottish Government Resilience Room or Welsh Emergency Coordination Centre respectively.

Redgrave Court Incident Suite

To support this, ONR would set up its own incident suite (Redgrave Court Incident Suite ‘RCIS) at its headquarters in Bootle, Merseyside to monitor the activities of the operator and form an independent view. For example the RCIS was fully operational from the first day of the serious nuclear accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011, and remained so for several weeks. ONR’s emergency response arrangements are regularly tested through our involvement in tests of off-site emergency plans (referenced above). We continuously seek to improve our own arrangements through learning from these exercises.