Office for Nuclear Regulation

Regulatory Research Register

This Regulatory Research Register follows on from the ONR Research Strategy published in September 2019. There are three main drivers for ONR to 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.

However, all of the research supports ONR’s enabling regulatory approach and is aligned with our Research Strategy. The work identified in this register will help ensure that our inspectors form their regulatory judgements confidently and effectively, using sound, up to date scientific and technical information.

Research projects are formally proposed through completion of a proposal document submitted to the Research Delivery function. These proposals also confirm that the research is consistent with ONR’s regulatory purposes under the Energy Act (safety, security, transport, safeguards and conventional health and safety), and identify estimated costs and the dutyholders concerned.

Examples of research topics which meet our strategic research objectives and support our purposes under the Energy Act include:

  • Research which supports our independent decision-making by giving us a diverse view of a subject from the dutyholders.
  • Topics which enhance the definition of relevant good practice and thus support reasonable practicability tests.
  • Research to test/confirm safety, security and/or safeguards case claims and arguments.
  • Confirmatory research into the validity of assumptions underpinning safety, security and/or safeguards cases.
  • Research to identify where existing models/data may have weaknesses.
  • Research into potential safety, security and/or safeguards issues associated with new technologies before their application to new or existing facilities.

We liaise with other UK nuclear regulators, with the nuclear industry, and with other major UK and international nuclear research bodies to ensure our research proposals are appropriate.

To develop these proposals into tangible, useful outputs, we will convert the proposals into specifications, and then discuss these with the nuclear industry and key research providers. If appropriate, the nuclear industry will be invited to commission research to address these topics and share the results with ONR. If not, ONR will commission the research and publish the results. In most cases we will charge the costs of the research back to the relevant licensees and dutyholders.

Some of the research proposals describe long term ongoing research work which is being managed and delivered by industry groups. We monitor the delivery by these groups. This approach is particularly relevant to all the Control and Instrumentation research topics and many of the Structural Integrity topics.

For the graphite research, ONR has previously determined that we need to have research undertaken independently of the work the major reactor licensees also perform to underpin future safety cases. All of ONR’s independent graphite research topics are described for completeness in this register, this work is ongoing and will continue as needed.

Each year, ONR will publish an annual research update to confirm and publicise the work completed.

Progress Status Report – Q1 2021/22

Regulatory Research Register 2021/22

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