Health and Safety Executive

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Directors' tax problems

In February 2012, two ONR officials had their contracts terminated, after it emerged that they were receiving payment through private companies rather than the staff payroll.

Paul Brown, chief operating officer, was paid via his company Operations Improvements Ltd, based in Surrey. Jon Seddon, finance director and head of corporate services since early 2010, was paid through SEUC Company Ltd.[1]

Nuclear activities

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates the nuclear industry through its Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). The ONR's goal "is to secure the protection of people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry". It does this by "securing nuclear safety and security in the UK and influencing global safety and security standards".[2]

It was launched on 1 April 2011 and brought together the safety and security functions of HSE’s Nuclear Directorate (incorporating the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the Office for Civil Nuclear Security and the UK Safeguards Office) and, from summer 2011, the Department for Transport’s Radioactive Materials Transport Division.[3]

Generic Design Assessment

The UK's two civil nuclear regulators – the HSE and Environment Agency – have been carrying out a new process called 'Generic Design Assessment' (GDA), which looks at the safety, security and environmental implications of new reactor designs before an application is made to build that design at a particular site. [4] In March 2008, the initial assessment of four nuclear power station designs was completed. No shortfalls in any of the four designs were found. A series of reports on each design were published. [5]

The next stage was going to be a prioritisation process to select a maximum of three reactor designs to proceed to the next stage of the assessment, but Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd announced in April 2008 that it was pulling its ACR-1000 design out of the process to focus on its home market. [6]

On 12 June 2008, HSE and the Environment Agency announced that they were starting the next, more detailed stage of the GDA process - referred to by HSE as Step 3 - for the remaining three designs.

Then in September 2008 General Electric's nuclear venture with Hitachi Ltd. asked the HSE to temporarily halt the process of assessing its so-called Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor so that it could focus its efforts on getting U.S. approval instead. [7]

This left only the Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 design and the Areva-Siemens European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) in the assessment process.

At the end of the process the regulators will make statements setting out their conclusions about the acceptability of the designs.

Updates from the HSE on the process are on its GDA Reports webpage.

Staff shortages

In 2008, there are worries about the Government’s failure to recruit a sufficient number of nuclear inspectors both to cope with the NII’s existing workload, and to carry out the Generic Design Assessment. Assurances were given to Dai Davies MP by energy minister Malcolm Wicks that progress in recruiting staff was being made, [8] but the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, told the TUC in September that, despite his reluctance to pay more to public-sector workers, he may well have to throw cash at nuclear inspectors because too few people are applying. [9]

The HSE was battling to recruit up to 50 more nuclear inspectors. Its nuclear arm had some 160 inspectors but needed another 30 to bring it up to full complement to meet the workload on existing nuclear sites and a further 20 inspectors for the GDA. There were concerns that the shortage of inspectors could threaten the Government’s timetable for new reactors. [10]

According to the National Metals Technology Centre, the timely completion of the facilitative actions, which the Government was carrying out to support new reactor building, was threatened by a shortage of skilled inspectors and engineers engaged in the GDA process (within the NII), such that delays in the completion of this process and the possible knock-on effects of delays in the planning and licensing processes would affect confidence throughout the supply chain. [11]

The GDA is identified as a significant bottleneck in the UK’s nuclear new build process. Without the process coming to fruition, no building can take place.

The Environment Agency said in a letter to the Government, at the start of Step 3 of the GDA process, that its preliminary assessment of the submissions to the GDA from the so-called ‘Requesting Parties’ (RPs) identified significant areas where they did not contain the necessary information to allow a determination of whether the designs would use best available techniques (BAT) to meet high environmental standards. However, all the RPs committed to provide the necessary information by the end of 2008. [12]

Mike Weightman, the Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations told the Government, “that there is a significant resource shortfall against that planned to be in place at the start of Step 3”. He said the NII’s original estimate of the amount of time and cost that would be required to complete the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process was subject to the reactor designs being complete; the Requesting Parties providing adequate documentation in a timely manner; good interactions with Requesting Parties; taking benefit from overseas regulator assessments; and sufficient resources being available in NII.

But there had been difficulties in all these areas. He said while the nuclear regulators remained determined to complete the GDA process as close to the original programme as possible, there was a risk of this not being achieved. “Therefore, at this stage we cannot commit to a firm completion date.” [13]


  • Tony Almond (speaker Shale Gas UK April 2015 conference)



  1. Rajeev Syal, Nuclear regulators paid through private firms will not have contract renewed, The Guardian, 24 February 2012
  2. Health and safety in the nuclear industry, HSE, undated, accessed 29 October 2012
  3. Launch of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, DECC, undated, accessed 29 October 2012
  4. See UK Nuclear Regulators: Nuclear Reactor Assessment HSE website accessed December 2008.
  5. Generic Design Assessment Reports, HSE website, accessed December 2008.
  6. T.Hamilton,'AECL abandons effort to sell UK reactors' Toronto Star, 5 April 2008.
  7. L.Paulsson, 'GE asks UK to suspend approval of nuclear reactor' Bloomberg, 17 September 2008.
  8. Hansard 15 May 2008 : Column 1761-2W
  9. H.Muir, ‘Diary’, The Guardian, 25 September 2008.
  10. M.Milner and T.Macalister, 'Shortage of safety inspectors threatens nuclear power plans, The Guardian, 20 October 2008.
  11. National Metals Technology Centre, The Supply Chain for a UK Nuclear New Build Programme, BERR, September 2008.
  12. J.McHugh, Letter to Mark Higson at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Environment Agency 6 June 2008.
  13. M,Weightman, Letter to Mark Higson, HSE, 6 June 2008.