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New nuclear regulator on its way

Employment minister Chris Grayling this week unveiled plans to create an independent body to regulate the nuclear industry.

The Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) will consolidate nuclear safety functions carried out by Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Department for Transport.

The HSE will establish ONR as a non-statutory body on 1 April until appropriate legislation can be passed.
“It’s about making the organisation more effective − particularly with the upcoming nuclear new build,” said a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions which oversees the HSE.

The creation of the ONR will bring together safety regulation for nuclear power - and nuclear fuel transportation.

The Nuclear Industry Association said the new body was “vital” to the new build and decommissioning programmes.

Meanwhile, a US cable leaked by the Wikileaks website this week described Sellafield’s Mixed-Oxide (Mox) Plant as “one of the most embarrassing failures in British industrial history.” The plant was constructed in the 1990s to reprocess plutonium to make new fuel.

A “white elephant”

The leak described the plant as a “white elephant” costing £90M per year to maintain.

The Sellafield Mox plant has produced a small fraction of its original target − 15t in nine years against a target of 560t.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced this week that it was consulting on what to do with the UK’s large plutonium stockpiles. The three options proposed are to reprocess it as fuel, immobilise and dispose of it, or continue long term storage.

“At the moment we don’t have a long-term management option,” said a DECC spokesman.

DECC’s wants to build a new facility, costing between £5bn and £6bn to construct and operate over 30 years. It will handle waste and potentially allow for the fuel to be sold overseas.

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