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How we regulate

Permissioning inspection

Before ONR can permission key activities, we assess licensees safety cases, on a sample basis according to potential consequences, to ensure that the hazards have been understood and are properly controlled.

Compliance inspection

We check that licensees comply with their licence conditions through planned inspections, on a sample basis according to information derived from safety cases and other operational intelligence.


We undertake the full spectrum of enforcement activities, from the provision of advice through to prosecution, in accordance with ONR's Enforcement Policy Statement and the Regulators Compliance Code.


We seek to use our influence to gain improvements in areas which are difficult to regulate such as safety culture, leadership and vision.

ONR is made up of site inspectors and specialist inspectors, drawn from various professional fields including civil engineering, radiological protection, human factors, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and nuclear physics. The inspectors are supported up by a business support team, which ensures that the Programme functions effectively and efficiently, ensuring that the necessary administration and legal considerations are in order, handling enquiries from members of the public and other parties, and maintaining the lines of communication between inspectors and licensees.

Every licensed site has a nominated site inspector who is ONR's primary point of contact for that site. The inspector typically spends around one week in four at the site, conducts routine site inspection for compliance with licence conditions, follows up incidents and events at the site. The inspector liaises with the licensees personnel giving advice on how to comply with legal requirements, assessing the adequacy of safety cases and most importantly ensuring that risks to workers and members of the public are reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

The site inspector also leads on ongoing longer term work such as the sites ten-yearly periodic safety review, oversees ONR's permissioning activity, observes emergency exercises and reports to the sites community or stakeholder liaison group on a quarterly basis, also appearing at its meetings to answer questions from members of the public.

Supporting the site inspectors is a team of specialist inspectors from ONR's specialist assessment units, whom the site inspector can draw upon for in-depth specialist expert assessment and advice. The specialist inspectors are called onto site to support particular inspections, or to work from ONR's offices in Bootle, Cheltenham or London, examining submissions of information from licensees (such as safety cases), making judgements on requests for permissioning, conducting research and sometimes commissioning testing and analysis to validate or challenge licensee arguments.

Regulatory decision making by site and specialist inspectors is overseen by relevant superintending inspectors, who in turn report to the Deputy Chief Inspector (DCI) and head of the Programme. The DCI is also responsible for setting the Programme strategy, priorities and ensuring that the Programme conducts appropriate engagement with important stakeholders, including members of the public.