How we regulate the nuclear industry
We are the environmental regulator for nuclear sites in Wales. We make sure that nuclear companies and the sites they operate meet the high standards of environmental protection throughout the stages of:
- design and construction
Any company that wants to construct and operate a new nuclear facility in Wales (for example, a nuclear power station or geological disposal facility) will need to apply to us for a range of different environmental permits, licences and consents.
They also need:
- a nuclear site licence and relevant consents from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR)
- planning consents from the relevant authority
The environmental permits we issue to nuclear site operators contain strict conditions (rules) that they must follow at all times. Permit conditions are designed to make sure that the operator’s activities do not harm people or the environment.
We make sure operators meet the conditions of their permits by carrying out:
- site inspections
- environmental monitoring
- liaison with local communities and stakeholders
Nuclear sites in Wales
There are two nuclear sites in Wales:
These sites are being decommissioned by the operator, Magnox Ltd, a subsidiary of the U.K Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
A third nuclear site in Cardiff was deregulated in 2019. We regulated the final site clean-up of the Cardiff G.E Healthcare nuclear site in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.
How we assess new nuclear power station designs
We work with the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to make sure that any new nuclear power stations built in England and Wales meet high standards of:
- environmental protection
- waste management
Generic Design Assessments
The Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation have developed a process called Generic Design Assessment (GDA). It is used to scrutinise new nuclear power stations at an early stage.
The Generic Design Assessment is a three step process of increasing scrutiny. It helps us identify potential design or technical concerns early on and we can then ask the designer to resolve them.
Public and stakeholder engagement
During both the Generic Design Assessment and any site specific programme, we will consult with stakeholders and the public on our work.
New nuclear projects
Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd Small Modular Reactor
We started a Generic Design Assessment on Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd's 470 MWe Small Modular Reactor started on 1 April 2022. We have joined the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation in these assessments.
Step 1 (initiation)
The joint step 1 statement, report and summary for the Rolls-Royce SMR have been published on Gov.uk.
Step 2 (fundamental assessment)
High-level technical assessments of the design started in April 2023. The design company must provide detailed information to make the environment case for the reactor design.
We will carefully examine the information and ask questions. We can request further information if necessary and identify if changes to the design might be needed.
Find out more about the reactor design, make comments or ask Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd questions about their proposal. We see all comments and the designer’s responses and can use these to help inform our work.
Geological disposal of radioactive waste
Geological disposal involves isolating radioactive waste deep underground, inside a suitable rock volume to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface environment.
A Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) will be a highly engineered structure consisting of multiple barriers that will provide protection over hundreds of thousands of years. Learn more about the history, science behind GDF.
Welsh Government Policy for geological disposal
The Welsh Government has adopted a policy of supporting geological disposal for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste.
They have published guidance on the process to follow if an Interested Party (individual or group of people) expresses an interest in the siting process and wishes to propose an area for consideration.
This is in line with the UK Government’s overarching approach for managing higher activity radioactive waste in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The guidance follows a similar process to the GDF for higher-activity radioactive waste in England.
Delivering geological disposal
The UK Government funded programme to deliver a single GDF for the higher activity waste produced in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, will be delivered by Nuclear Waste Services. A subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Nuclear Waste Services is responsible for implementing geological disposal and they will lead the siting process, working in partnership with communities to identify a suitable location to host a geological disposal facility.
Building a geological disposal facility in Wales
A GDF will only be built in Wales if a community is willing to host one and a suitable and safe site can be found. The process of selecting a site in Wales is consent-based.
We would be responsible for regulating any GDF in Wales with the Office for Nuclear Regulation, making sure it meets the high standards we require to protect people and the environment.
Our work across the whole nuclear sector
We work extensively with our partners in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on matters which apply across the whole nuclear sector in the UK.
We work across a multitude of policy, strategy and legislative frameworks. Working with:
- regulatory partners
- government departments (UK and Welsh Government)
This includes planning for and determining changes to UK and European legislation and how that might affect the regulation of the nuclear sector in Wales.
Subjects include work related to the current and future strategies for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes in the UK, the future use of nuclear energy and nuclear medicine, nuclear research and development, environmental monitoring for radioactivity, and other key aspects of the nuclear sector that need to be considered and regulated.