Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Defence programme 

The Defence Programme regulates activities at defence-related nuclear licensed sites and a number of authorised nuclear sites through two sub-programmes, the propulsion programme and the weapons programme.

The Propulsion programme

The Propulsion programme regulates activities at Devonport Royal Dockyard, Plymouth, BAE Systems Marine, Barrow, Rolls Royce Marine Power Operations, Derby and Rosyth Royal Dockyard, Fife.

These are licensed sites supporting the UKs fleet of nuclear-powered deterrent and hunter-killer submarines. Activities range from nuclear core manufacturing at Rolls Royce, submarine construction and commissioning at BAE Systems, submarine repair/refit/refuelling at Devonport Royal Dockyard, and storage at Rosyth. These sites are operated for the MOD by contractors, who hold the site licenses.

The Propulsion programme also regulates activities at number of facilities owned and operated by MOD and by Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd (DRDL) and exempt from licensing requirements under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. These sites are referred to as authorised sites.

They include HM Naval Base Devonport and No. 5 Basin at Devonport Royal Dockyard, HM Naval Base Clyde (the operational base and nuclear weapons depot for the UKs fleet of Trident nuclear deterrent submarines), the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment (a land based test reactor at Dounreay), and a range of Operational Berths around the UK, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Portland, Devonport, and Clyde.

The Weapons programme

The Weapons programme regulates activities at Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield.

These are licensed sites providing and maintaining the warheads for the UKs nuclear deterrent on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). They are MOD owned, but are occupied and operated by the licensee, AWE plc.

Working with the Ministry of Defence

MOD and the sites they operate enjoy some Crown exemptions from legislation. They are not covered by the Nuclear Installations Act licensing requirements. The Act also excludes any nuclear reactor comprised in a means of transport, such as a submarine, thereby exempting Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited from licensing requirements in their No. 5 Basin at Devonport Royal Dockyard.

The MOD internal regulator, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR) leads on regulating nuclear safety at these sites. However, neither Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd (DRDL) nor MOD are exempt from the Health and Safety at Work Act, Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 or Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR). ONR regulates them under these regulations and other legislation. ONR works closely with DNSR to develop and agree intervention strategies in accordance with the HSE/MOD Agreement at all defence sites.

It is MOD policy to ensure, where reasonably practicable, that standards on defence related nuclear sites are at least as good as those required by civil regulation. As a Crown Body the MOD cannot be prosecuted, but there are administrative arrangements in place whereby Crown Bodies may be censured in respect of offences which would have led to prosecution.

MOD Ministers account to Parliament on nuclear safety matters at all of these sites.