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Alarm over Government’s growth mandate for nuclear regulator via Independent

Last year, non-economic regulators were handed guidance entitled “Duty to have regard to growth” by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

Anti-nuclear campaigners fear regulators have been forced to cosy up to the industry and sacrifice some of their safety responsibilities as a result of government changes to their role.

At a meeting in Manchester last week, executives from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), which oversees civil reactors and decommissioning, told representatives from NGOs that they now have to encourage the industry’s economic growth in addition to promoting safety.

Last year, non-economic regulators were handed guidance entitled “Duty to have regard to growth” by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), but this still requires secondary legislation to come into force. The Government also introduced a Regulators’ Code, which asks them to support the growth of those businesses they oversee.

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The guidance states: “Those exercising regulatory functions should consider the economic impact that their actions are likely to have on individual businesses, and where appropriate, industry sectors.”

The guidance also says “the growth duty does not automatically take precedence over or supplant existing duties held by regulators”, but believe safety regulators should have to take account of growth.

Professor Andy Blowers, who chairs the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group that opposes plans for a new reactor in Essex, said: “There’s a kind of dichotomy here, possibly a conflict, between regulating and accelerating [industry growth].” Another attendee, nuclear expert Dr David Lowry, warned that the ONR seemed to be getting “too close” to the industry.

He added: “The ONR needs to stand up to Government pressure to act as an arm of the nuclear cheerleaders at the Treasury now making all the nuclear decisions, and carry on implementing the robust UK nuclear safety rules. Nuclear industry regulation is totally unsuitable to the Business Department’s misguided crusade to cut red tape in regulations.

“During the Manchester meeting, the ONR seemed to be dangerously edging towards the corporate financial interests of the nuclear industry rather than the public interests of ensuring national nuclear safety.”

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