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Research that ONR carries out

ONR is the statutory safety regulator for GB nuclear sites, where we regulate activities prescribed in the Energy Act 2013.  The Act states that ONR has five purposes:

  • The Nuclear Safety purpose (section 68),
  • The Nuclear Site Health and Safety Purpose (section 69),
  • The Civil Nuclear Security purpose (section 70),  
  • The Nuclear Safeguards purpose (section 72) and
  • The Nuclear Transport purpose (section 73).

The Energy Act 2013 (section 88) enables ONR to carry out or commission research in connection with those purposes, and to publish the results if it considers it appropriate to do so.

We published our research strategy in September 2019, which states that we will use research to support our independent regulatory decision making. The main objective of the strategy is to ensure that ONR's inspectors will form their regulatory judgements confidently and effectively using sound, up to date scientific and technical information.

The strategy identifies three main drivers for ONR to carry out or commission research:

  • ONR requires independent advice to assist with our decision-making, particularly where the decisions we make might be considered to be contentious.
  • ONR has identified a knowledge gap which requires research, and has invited the dutyholders concerned to complete the work and share their results. However, they have declined to do so, or declined to do so within acceptable timescales.
  • ONR specialists require greater understanding and oversight of developing innovations or emerging subjects, to enable our regulatory decisions to be based on the most up to date information.

The Professional Leads for each of our specialisms regularly review their specialist areas and maintain a list of research proposals, these are listed in the ONR Regulatory Research Register.

To demonstrate that it is commissioning research in a proportionate and appropriate manner, ONR performs an internal evaluation of the effectiveness of research we commission.  In order to deliver the expectations of the Treasury guidance on Managing Public Money, ONR also confirms the effectiveness of some research via independent third party review.  Any research commissioned by ONR may be selected for independent third party review of its effectiveness.  This is more likely where that research might recommend changes of regulatory expectation or approach, or where expert opinion is divided. In these cases, gaining an independent review of the effectiveness of the research acts to strengthen our position.

Published research