Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Recruitment and risks in relation to SSAC and Safeguards team

Date released
11 April 2019
Request number
201903064
Release of information under
Freedom of Information Act 2000

Information requested

  1. Since June 23rd, 2016, how many staff have you recruited specifically relating to the UK State System of Accountancy for and Control of Nuclear Material (SSAC) project and the Safeguards team?
  2. How many more staff, relating to the aforementioned, do you plan to recruit, to fill the gap as the UK leaves Euratom and ONR takes over its duties?
  3. What are the top three risks you identify arising from staff shortages and skills shortages (relating to the aforementioned SSAC and Safeguards team)? 

Information released

I can confirm that the ONR holds information of the description in your request. To provide some helpful context, we have set out the background information below.

As a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) the UK is required to establish a domestic nuclear safeguards regime to ensure that the UK continues to meet its international safeguards obligations.  Therefore, ONR has established a UK State System of Accountancy for and Control of Nuclear Material (UK SSAC) to enable the UK to meet its international safeguards obligations. 

Government set out its policy intention of establishing a domestic safeguards regime equivalent in effectiveness and coverage to that provided by Euratom.  ONR will build on and further develop the UK SSAC to deliver a regime that meets this policy intent by the end of December 2020.  Accordingly, ONR’s UK SSAC project has been organised into two phases: 1) Deliver a safeguards regime that enables the UK to meet its international safeguards obligations by 29 March 2019, and 2) Deliver a safeguards regime equivalent in effectiveness and coverage to that provided by Euratom by end of December 2020. 

ONR has delivered the first phase of the project, and confirmed its readiness to deliver a UK SSAC that would enable the UK to meet its international obligations from 29 March 2019.

ONR’s safeguards purpose prior to Euratom withdrawal entailed the facilitation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Euratom implementation of safeguards in the UK.  Therefore, ONR had a pre-existing safeguards function and team in place when Euratom withdrawal was announced. ONR’s training and recruitment for safeguards has been planned according to the two phases of the project. 

In relation to your three questions, our responses are:

  1. Since 23 June 2016, 13 people have been recruited to the safeguards team.  These are individuals hired on a permanent basis as frontline safeguards regulatory staff (safeguards inspectors and nuclear material accountants).  These individuals are supported by a project team, which draws on the time and skills of individuals across ONR, including those within our safety and security regulatory divisions, and our corporate functions including human resources, finance and policy and communications.  We currently have 20 frontline safeguards regulatory staff in post, with one further individual due to join ONR in May 2019.
  2. Initial ONR estimates for staff numbers were that we would require between 30-35 people to deliver a UK SSAC equivalent in effectiveness in coverage to that provided by Euratom.  This estimate included support and managerial staff, as well as frontline regulatory staff.  Our future recruitment plans will be focused on sustaining our capability, and will remain flexible to take account of the dynamic environment within which we are operating.

    Currently, we anticipate recruiting between two and four additional frontline safeguards regulatory staff over the next 12-18 months, but this figure will remain under review as we build our capability and take account of the changing project landscape, which may of course include changes in our current staffing profile.

  3. Please note that the UK SSAC project closely and actively manages all risks related to project delivery, and therefore the identification and management of risk within the project is constantly changing, in line with accepted project management best practice.  The top three current risks identified within the SSAC project related to potential staff shortages and skill shortages are:
    • As a result of: 1) failing to recruit enough people within the required timeframe; 2) not being able to free up qualified people it does have in order to develop Euratom Equivalence capabilities and train staff; there is a threat that ONR will not have in place enough people with the right skills to deliver a UK SSAC to meet Euratom equivalence by end December 2020, which may result in a) reputational damage to the UK globally b) reputational damage to ONR.
    • As a result of: 1) availability of candidates; 2) candidates not being able to meet standards for warranting; there is a threat that ONR does not have sufficient warranted, competent safeguards inspectors to deliver Euratom equivalent regulation by December 2020, which may result in a) the UK not being able to assure Euratom equivalent levels of regulations, which could impact trade agreements and cause the UK and ONR significant reputational damage.
    • As a result of: 1) inadequate training plans; 2) training not being available; 3) candidates not being able to meet standards required for safeguards inspectors; there is a threat that ONR does not have sufficient competent safeguards inspectors by December 2020, which may result in an inability to meet Euratom equivalence.

All of these risks are being carefully managed by the SSAC project, with effective measures to mitigate both the likelihood of the risk materialising, and the impact of it, if it did.  All of ONR’s recruitment and training targets for the first phase of the project to 29 March 2019, have been met, with the project now working towards delivery of the second phase of the project.  All of the risks detailed above are rated as green, which means that the level of the risk is low.  The project is confident that it will have the necessary number of, and appropriately qualified staff in place to deliver a domestic safeguards regime that meets the government policy commitment of being equivalent in effectiveness and coverage to that provided by Euratom, by the end of December 2020.

Finally, you may also find the Euratom Exit Quarterly Update to Parliament of interest. This is produced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and includes updates on the implementation of the domestic safeguards regime, which covers the SSAC project. The most recent report was published on 14 February 2019 and is available to view on the BEIS website - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/euratom-exit-quarterly-update-october-to-december-2018.

Exemptions applied

N/A

PIT (Public Interest Test) if applicable

N/A