Overview of the Bill
1 The Nuclear Safeguards Bill creates the legal framework for a nuclear safeguards regime to operate in the United Kingdom. This domestic regime will replace the current legal framework provided principally by the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Atomic Energy Community ("Euratom"). Nuclear safeguards arrangements enable the United Kingdom to meet international nuclear safeguards standards and engage in certain international civil nuclear activities, including trade and research and development.
2 Nuclear safeguards primarily involve reporting and verification processes by which the United Kingdom demonstrates to the international community that civil nuclear material is not diverted into military or weapons programmes. Nuclear safeguard procedures can include accountancy and reporting on civil nuclear material holdings and development plans, verification (including inspections of nuclear facilities by international inspectors), containment measures and surveillance (including cameras in selected facilities). Nuclear safeguards are distinct from nuclear safety (the prevention of nuclear accidents) and nuclear security (physical protection measures), which are the subject of independent regulatory provisions.
3 The Bill amends the Energy Act 2013 ("the 2013 Act") to replace the existing nuclear safeguards purposes of the Office of Nuclear Regulation ("ONR"). The ONR is the United Kingdom’s nuclear regulator. The ONR has five purposes which define its areas of responsibility and where it will be able to exercise functions. Currently, the nuclear safeguards purposes of the ONR is defined by reference to Euratom and existing agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency ("IAEA") (which also depend on membership of Euratom). The new nuclear safeguards purposes of the ONR will require it to ensure compliance with regulations on nuclear safeguards made by the Secretary of State and to ensure compliance of the United Kingdom with international agreements relating to nuclear safeguards.
4 The Bill provides powers to the Secretary of State to make nuclear safeguards regulations, which will set out the detail of the domestic regime for nuclear safeguards. The regulation-making power can also be used to implement the new international agreements the United Kingdom envisages concluding (for example, with the IAEA).
5 The Bill also provides a regulation-making power to the Secretary of State to amend certain legislation (including primary legislation, as set out below) which make reference to parts of existing agreements on nuclear safeguards between the IAEA and the United Kingdom. These references will need to be updated when the existing agreements with the IAEA are replaced with new ones (which are currently being negotiated).