This section contains information about our regulation of the nuclear industry.
A complex industry surrounds nuclear power stations, to manage and support their work. It includes businesses that make fuel for power stations and those managing the radioactive waste they produce. As well as power stations we also have nuclear reactors powering Royal Navy submarines and some nuclear weapons are also manufactured in the UK.
There are 32 licensed nuclear sites in England and Wales. They are regularly inspected by the Office for Nuclear Regulation who are in charge of regulating all aspects of nuclear safety on them.
We oversee how the 32 sites dispose of their radioactive waste by granting site permits to the operators who run them. Operators of these sites must have a permit from us to dispose of their waste. These permits set out limits and conditions on the amount and way they dispose of their waste and cover all radioactive waste disposals including discharges to air and water, and transfers of wastes for incineration or disposal to land. We also check-up on sites to ensure they're not exceeding their limits and releasing as little radioactive waste as possible into the environment.
We have two nuclear regulation groups (NRGs).
Environmental permitting for radioactive substance activities on nuclear sites
We regulate the disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear sites. We also regulate certain aspects of the keeping and use of radioactive sources on nuclear sites.
Nuclear reactor life cycle
We are involved throughout the entire lifecycle of a nuclear power station.
- Assessment of new nuclear power station designs. We are working with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to assess nuclear power station designs.
- Planning and construction. We are responsible for key environmental permits relating to construction and operation of nuclear power stations and 'associated developments'. Once construction has started, we work closely with the site operators to make sure that they comply with our permit conditions.
- Operation. It’s our job to set limits and regulate the discharges and emissions of radioactive waste from nuclear power stations into the environment.
- Decommissioning. When a site has reached the end of its operational life it has to be cleaned up and decommissioned. We work closely with the NDA, other regulators and site operators, to consider how this can be done in a way that properly protects and improves the environment.
When nuclear sites in England and Wales reach the end of their operational lives, they need to be decommissioned and cleaned up. We work with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and site operators to ensure that the clean-up is done as soon as possible and in ways that properly protect people and the environment.
Nuclear submarine dismantling
We are working closely with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) nuclear regulator and the Office for Nuclear Regulation to ensure that the highest environmental standards are incorporated into plans to dismantle redundant nuclear submarines. We will regulate the dismantling project to the highest environmental standards.
Incidents involving radioactivity
A radiation incident is an event that could expose people to radiation and cause radioactive contamination of the environment. Although rare, we are fully prepared for incidents involving radiation. We are one of a number of organisations responsible for planning for and responding to radiation incidents. Together we develop, maintain and test contingency plans, provide information to the public, monitor for radiation and, in the event of a radiation incident, advise people on what to do to make sure their exposure to radiation is as low as possible. Find out how.
Security of radioactive substances
Approximately 3,000 sites in England and Wales are licensed by us to keep and use radioactive sources. It’s our job to make sure those sites have adequate security measures in place to prevent the sources from falling into the wrong hands. Find out how.
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