Civil Nuclear Constabulary

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Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) is the elite police force responsible for guarding Britain's civil nuclear licensed sites and safe-guarding nuclear materials and nuclear site operators.

Whereas other police forces are overseen by the Home Office, the CNC is under the authority of the Civil Nuclear Police Authority (CNPA) which operates under the strategic direction of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).[1] The function of the CNPA is to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. [2]

It was headed by former Foreign Office terrorism expert Richard Thompson from 2007 until 2012 and is now run by Michael Griffiths CBE, a retired Army Brigadier, who saw active service in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Bosnia and Afghanistan.


For 50 years until 1 April 2005 the CNC was known as the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary(UKAEAC). It was responsible for policing at all UKAEA, BNFL, Urenco premises and powers throughout Great Britain whilst escorting movements of nuclear material.[3]


In 2008 The Mail on Sunday reported that the Civil Nuclear Constabulary was carrying out strategic reviews to prepare for its planned expansion into the Critical National Infrastructure Police. This new force was intended to mount armed patrols around all key installations nationwide, including power stations, phone and computer networks, oil and gas pipelines, ports and airports.[4]


The Constabulary is funded by the nuclear industry which was due to pay £57 million towards its upkeep in 2009. It is overseen by the Civil Nuclear Police Authority which is also funded by the industry.[5]

Covert operations

The Guardian reported in October 2009, that the force was authorised to carry out covert operations against anti-nuclear protestors:

The force is authorised to send informers to infiltrate organisations and to conduct undercover surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). It is also permitted to obtain communications data such as phone numbers and email addresses.[6]

In 2012 freedom of information requests by Spinwatch revealed that the National Public Order Intelligence Unit had been gathering intelligence on activists to “manage the risk” that they pose to government plans to build new nuclear power stations. Journalist Rob Edwards reported that:

a document released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveals that the NPOIU briefed a meeting about “activism and nuclear new build” in Whitehall in June 2011. Present were government officials, three nuclear companies – EDF Energy, Horizon and NuGeneration – and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, a specialist force for guarding nuclear power sites.
Police officers from three areas where new nuclear stations are planned were also involved – Avon and Somerset (Hinkley Point), Suffolk (Sizewell) and North Wales (Wylfa). The purpose of the meeting was “to obtain an agreed understanding of the available intelligence on the risk to the new build programme from environmental activism".
Those present hoped “to identify any potential gaps in arrangements for managing the risk of direct action or protests at new build sites”. NPOIU’s presentation gave an “overview of the current situation and nature of the threat”.
NPOIU’s presentation has not been released so its conclusions are not known. There have been two protests at Hinkley Point in the last year involving hundreds of people, and a “mass trespass” is planned there on 8 October. There was also a demonstration at Wylfa in January 2012.

Spinwatch's Eveline Lubbers says that the boundaries between public and private intelligence gathering were being increasingly blurred. “NPOIU was set up to sell data on possible threats to clients such as energy companies building power plants, and airline companies involved in the expansion of airports,” she said. [7]

Drink, drugs, guns misuse and allegations of sexual harassment and assault=

In 2013 documents obtained by Spinwatch under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that CNC officers have been caught drunk, using drugs, misusing firearms and also accused of sexual harassment and assault.

The revelations raised concerns about the safety of the UK’s nuclear plants and radioactive material.

Parliamentary questions

Police: Civil Nuclear Police Federation (Question. Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Civil Nuclear Constabulary Police officers are currently on gardening leave on full pay (1) as a direct result of the cessation of policing at Capenhurst, Springfields and Chapelcross, and (2) for other reasons.[HL1494]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Following the cessation of Civil Nuclear Constabulary presence at the Capenhurst and Springfields sites, 17 non-Authorised Firearms Officers (non-AFOs) are currently on gardening leave on full pay, in line with their contractual notice periods, awaiting the conclusion of the Civil Nuclear Police Authority’s consultation with the affected officers. There are no other CNC officers on gardening leave for other reasons. Formal consultation on redundancy for a further 7 non-AFOs at the Chapelcross site will commence ahead of the cessation of CNC protection later this month. [8]


  • Michael Griffiths CBE, a retired Army Brigadier, who saw active service in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
  • John Sampson - Deputy Chief Constable
  • Richard Thompson - Former Chief Constable 2007-2012



  1. CNC Website, Who are the CNC? (Accessed 2 June 2012)
  2. CNC Website, Who are the CNC? (Accessed 11 August 2008)
  3. CNC Website, Who are the CNC? (Accessed 11 August 2008)
  4. Jason Lewis, 'Anti-terror patrols secretly stepped up at power stations', The Mail on Sunday, 10 August 2008
  5. Rob Evans, Secret files reveal covert network run by nuclear police,, 20 October 2009.
  6. Rob Evans, Secret files reveal covert network run by nuclear police,, 20 October 2009.
  7. Rob Edwards (in cooperation with Spinwatch), Police trying to neuter anti-nuclear protest, 2 October 2012
  8. Written Answers Wednesday 17 July 2013, acc 21 October 2013