Date laid: 27 March 2019
Parliamentary procedure: negative
These Regulations introduce new requirements in relation to Great Britain’s preparedness for, and response to, potential nuclear emergencies, as set out in the Euratom Basic Safety Standards Directive. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says that the new requirements apply learning from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011, and that they will strengthen emergency preparedness and response arrangements, improve public protection, reduce adverse consequences in the event of an emergency and deliver a consistent approach across all nuclear and radiological sectors.
The Regulations are drawn to the special attention of the House on the ground that they give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House.
1.The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has laid the Regulations under the negative procedure, along with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM). BEIS explains that the purpose of the Regulations is to transpose requirements from the Euratom Basic Safety Standards Directive (“the Directive”) in relation to preparing for, and responding to, potential emergency exposures to ionising radiation from premises in which work with ionising radiation takes place. This is done by revoking the existing Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR) and replacing them with the requirements of the Directive as set out in this instrument.
2.BEIS explains that the Directive applies learning from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011 and that, even though the UK will be leaving the Euratom Treaty at the same time as it will be leaving the EU, the Government remain committed to the highest standards in radiological safety. According to BEIS, the Regulations will strengthen Great Britain’s emergency preparedness and response arrangements, improve public protection and reduce adverse consequences in the event of an emergency. The Department emphasises that the Regulations will deliver a consistent approach across the civil nuclear, defence nuclear and radiological sectors. These sectors fall under the responsibility of BEIS, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) respectively and are regulated by HSE and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
3.The Regulations introduce a new definition of ‘radiation emergency’ to reflect both the definition in the Directive and the current International Atomic Energy Agency definition. BEIS explains that this wider definition includes serious adverse consequences to quality of life, property and the environment, and therefore requires planning for wider protective actions and non-health impacts than under the current arrangements. The Regulations also introduce a new definition of emergency worker that includes anyone identified in a plan as having a role in providing direct assistance in an emergency. All emergency workers will need to receive appropriate information and training.
4.BEIS says that the Regulations introduce a consistent approach to assessing the full range of risks and consequences in relation to radiation emergencies. Operators will be required to identify all hazards that have the potential to cause a radiation emergency and evaluate possible onsite and offsite consequences. They will have to produce a consequences report that will inform the development and implementation of effective emergency response plans by the relevant local authority. BEIS says that the approach taken in the Regulations aims to be site-appropriate, proportionate and flexible to the risks identified in the hazard evaluation process, so that a more complex site with more potential hazards will require more planning in proportion to its potential risk, while a simpler site with fewer potential hazards will require less planning.
5.The Department explains that, based on an operator’s recommendation, local authorities will have to determine detailed emergency planning zones within which emergency arrangements and protections can be implemented quickly. Nuclear and radiological sites will have to continue to consider emergencies that are more likely and less severe but also, for the first time, consider unforeseen events and emergencies that are highly unlikely but would have a severe impact. For these unforeseen events and unlikely emergencies, so-called outline planning that builds on existing emergency plans will be required. The Regulations set a national reference level below which emergency plans should aim to keep the level of radiation exposure over a 12-month period in the event of a radiation emergency.
6.According to BEIS, the Regulations strengthen the role of the lead local authority and place a duty on other relevant local authorities and stakeholders to coordinate their planning with the lead local authority in the development of offsite emergency planning. In addition, the Regulations include requirements for local authorities to provide information to the public about radiation emergencies and allow local authorities to recover reasonable costs that arise from their emergency planning functions from operators.
7.The Department explains that although the Euratom Treaty does not apply to defence activities, the MOD has taken a policy decision to apply the requirements of the Directive to such activities where appropriate. According to BEIS, the MOD has analysed the impact of nuclear emergencies at all its sites and the Secretary of State for Defence will specify the need for and extent of any planning for these sites. At the same time, the instrument enables the Secretary of State to issue exemptions from the requirements or prohibitions of the Regulations on the grounds of national security, replicating the provisions in REPPIR.
8.The Regulations make provisions for Great Britain. BEIS told us that emergency preparedness and response are a devolved matter for Northern Ireland, and that the Northern Ireland Executive will be taking forward similar arrangements to this instrument in due course.
9.The EM states that BEIS, MOD and HSE conducted a joint six-week public consultation on the proposals between 5 October and 15 November 2017. The Department says that a total of 71 responses were received from professional bodies, industry associations, private and public sector organisations and individuals which showed broad support for the proposed approach and helped to refine the Department’s policy decisions.
10.The ONR has produced a detailed draft Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and guidance on behalf of HSE which provides further practical advice to duty holders on complying with the Regulations. The Department told us that stakeholders from across all sectors were closely engaged in the drafting of the ACOP and guidance, alongside their input into the development of the Regulations, and that the ONR expects to begin consultation on the draft ACOP and guidance on 10 April.
11.While the impact of the measures set out in the Regulations is expected to be below the £5 million threshold for a full impact assessment, the Department has produced a de minimis assessment. BEIS expects annual costs of £4.6 million in the first year and £1.7 million annual costs for business thereafter. This includes costs for familiarisation, preparation of information for local authorities, engagement with local authorities, enhancing existing and introducing new planning capabilities and testing. In addition, the Department expects costs of £3.2 million in the first year and £1.5 million per year thereafter for the public sector.
12.The transposition deadline for the Directive was 6 February 2018. We asked BEIS about the reasons for the delay. The Department explained that:
“The UK transposed the majority of the requirements of the Basic Safety Standards Directive [BSSD] into domestic law before the transposition deadline. Additional time was needed for the emergency preparedness and response BSSD workstream to enable the UK to fully transpose the requirements in a manner that is practical to achieve, supported by stakeholders and done in consultation with them. Officials have been in regular contact with the European Commission regarding the UK’s transposition of the BSSD to help mitigate the risk of infraction. Commission officials have been generally positive and supportive of the UK’s plans for full transposition.”
13.As the Regulations deal with emergency preparedness and response arrangements in relation to nuclear and radiological sites in the UK, we asked BEIS what measures are in place to deal with the effects of potential emergencies outside the UK, such as the 1987 Chernobyl accident. The Department told us that:
“Only regulation 22 (provision of information by a local authority to those actually affected in a radiation emergency) of these regulations would apply in an overseas Chernobyl type event. Local authorities would carry out response activity to an overseas radiation emergency through their responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, and associated guidance. BEIS would be the Lead Government Department (LGD) and would co-ordinate the response at the national level through the established LGD and Cabinet Office frameworks.”
14.The Department added that:
“BEIS will be taking forward the development of a national plan for radiation emergencies in due course. It will consider national interventions, capabilities and arrangements for radiation emergencies which could extend beyond outline emergency planning zones and cover transport emergencies and international events which affected the UK.”
15.These Regulations introduce new requirements in relation to Great Britain’s preparedness for and response to potential nuclear emergencies in the UK of which the House may wish to be aware. We draw the Regulations to the special attention of the House on the ground that they give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House.