Nuclear industry

We work with the Office for Nuclear Regulation in the regulation of nuclear sites to ensure that these activities do not threaten the environment or human health.

We regulate the disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear sites such as power stations and research facilities.

The storage of radioactive substances on nuclear sites is regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

The Nuclear Industry Liaison Group

Civilian sites in operation

  1. Torness Power Station
  2. Hunsterston B Power Station

Decommissioning sites

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

  1. Dounreay
    1. The Particles Retrieval Advisory Group (Dounreay) (PRAG(D))
  2. Chapelcross
  3. Hunterston A

Military sites

  1. HMNB Clyde
  2. Rosyth Royal Dockyard
  3. Vulcan NRTE

Contact us

The Nuclear Industry Liaison Group

We are members of the Nuclear Industry Liaison Group (NILG), which meets three times a year to provide a forum for discussion between nuclear site operators and the UK environment agencies.

A number of other organisations, including the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Food Standards Agency, also attend.

The meetings cover topics such as forthcoming government policy, legislation and environment agency initiatives. They are intended to be a two-way process to help both the agencies and the operators plan for future changes to the industry and the way in which it is regulated.

Civilian sites in operation

At civil licensed nuclear sites, our role is to regulate the disposal of radioactive waste in accordance with the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA 93) and other environmental legislation.

We issue authorisations to these sites which contain specific limitations and conditions under which radioactive wastes can be disposed of.

1. Torness Power Station

Situated on the east coast, near Dunbar, Torness Power Station is owned and operated by EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Ltd (formerly British Energy Generation Ltd (BEGL)). The site has been in operation since 1988.

It is powered by two advanced gas-cooled reactors and, with an electrical output of 1250MW, is capable of supplying electricity to more than 1.5 million homes.

Torness holds a multi-media certificate of Authorisation for all radioactive waste disposals from the site.

2. Hunterston B Power Station

Hunterston B Power Station is situated near West Kilbride, on the Hunterston Peninsula of the Ayrshire coast and is owned and operated by EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Ltd (formerly British Energy Generation Ltd (BEGL)). The site has been in operation since 1976.

Powered by a pair of advanced gas-cooled reactors, Hunterston B is currently operating at a reduced power level of 70%, but is still capable of supplying electricity to more than 1 million homes.

Hunterston B holds a multi-media Authorisation for all radioactive waste disposals from the site.

Decommissioning Sites

Decommissioning is an immense undertaking, with a timescale that can extend from decades to hundreds of years. A number of Scotland’s licensed nuclear facilities have reached the end of their productive life and are in varying stages of decommissioning and site clean-up.

Decommissioning guidance

SEPA, Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency have together published Management of radioactive waste from decommissioning of nuclear sites: Guidance on Requirements for Release from Radioactive Substances Regulation (GRR). We have also published a brief non-technical summary of the GRR.

The guidance explains what operators of nuclear sites need to do to surrender their environmental permits when all activities involving the management of radioactive waste have ceased. Operators should consult this guidance when they are planning and carrying out their work to decommission and clean-up their sites. It applies to all sites, whether or not they have already begun decommissioning and clean-up. It also needs to be taken into account when new sites are being designed or constructed.

The guidance requires operators to:

  • produce a waste management plan
  • produce a site-wide environmental safety case
  • make sure the condition of their site meets our standards for protection of people and the environment, now and into the future

It sets out our standards and requirements and explains the regulatory process that leads to a decision on whether to:

  • authorise on-site disposal of radioactive waste arising from decommissioning and clean-up, and
  • allow the nuclear site operator to surrender their environmental permit

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for overseeing the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK's civil, public nuclear sites.

The NDA's work is defined by a strategy, which we are consulted on in a statutory capacity before it is approved by UK Government and Scottish Ministers.

The management of decommissioning nuclear sites is then contracted out to a private company (or consortium of companies) known as a Parent Body Organisation (PBO) for a period of 10–15 years.

Our aim is to ensure that the NDA's plans for decommissioning and clean up align with our corporate aims and that good environmental performance is promoted and maintained by the NDA and its contractors.

To this end, we maintain a Memorandum of Understanding with the NDA, in which they agree to develop and maintain an effective and transparent working relationship.

Under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA) [external 4] and other environmental legislation, we regulate the PBO’s appointed site operator (referred to as a Site Licence Company (SLC)). We do not regulate the PBO or the NDA, unless their management impacts on the conditions of the site operator's authorisation.

1. Dounreay

Dounreay was once Britain's centre for fast reactor research and development.

Now the 140-acre site in Caithness is the largest nuclear decommissioning project in Scotland and the second largest in the UK, after Sellafield.

Site operator, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, is undertaking the site's decommissioning on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Part of this process involves disposing of solid, liquid and gaseous radioactive waste, which the site is permitted to do through its multi-media certificate of authorisation.

Low level waste facility

In January 2013, we granted Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd authorisation for a low level radioactive waste facility adjacent to the site. It is expected that the facility will begin accepting waste for disposal during 2015.

Particles Retrieval Advisory Group (Dounreay)

The Particles Retrieval Advisory Group (Dounreay) (PRAG(D)) was established in May 2009 and has the following objectives:

  • to provide expert scientific advice to SEPA on the effectiveness of the offshore particle retrieval operation;
  • to determine whether or not the Dounreay Particle Advisory Group (DPAG)’s, the PRAG(D) predecessor group, predications of particle numbers offshore and on local beaches remain valid;
  • the criteria and possible end points for the recovery operation in the Dounreay local environment.

The Group’s current membership comprises:

  • Professor Alex Elliott, Chairman (Department of Wellcome Surgical Institute, University of Glasgow)
  • Professor Tim Atkinson (Department of Earth Sciences, University College, London)
  • Dr George Hunter (independent environmental consultant)
  • Professor Marian Scott (Department of Statistics, University of Glasgow)
  • Professor Andrew Tyler (Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling)

A number of observers from SEPA, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL), Public Health England (PHE), NDA and a representative from the Scottish Government also attend the PRAG(D) meetings.



14 January 2011


23 February 2011


12 December 2011


2 February 2012


18 July 2012


24 October 2012


13 and 14 November 2012


18 December 2012


15 February 2013

Previous minutes dating back to May 2009 are available on request.

PRAG(D) Reports

2. Chapelcross

Located within four miles of the Solway Estuary, Chapelcross was a four-reactor station with eight 30MW turbines.

Site operator, Magnox Ltd, is now overseeing the site’s decommissioning on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Operation of the reactors stopped in 2004. The tritium production plant stopped in 2007, and the cooling towers were also demolished in 2007.

Chapelcross has a multi-media certificate of authorisation for all the disposals on site.

3. Hunterston A Power Station

Hunterston A, which ceased electricity power production at the end of March 1990, is situated near West Kilbride on the Hunterston Peninsula of the Ayrshire coast.

Magnox Ltd operates Hunterston A on behalf of the NDA and is facilitating the decommissioning of the site.

Part of this process involves disposing of solid, liquid and gaseous radioactive waste, which the site is permitted to do through its multi-media certificate of authorisation.

Military sites

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) holds Crown Immunity andis exempt from the provisions of RSA 93.

In cases where the MoD is exempt from such legislation, it is MoD policy to introduce standards and arrangements, where reasonably practicable, that are at least as good as those that would have applied had they not been exempt.

In practice, we have agreed with the MoD that the provisions of RSA 93 will be applied by administrative arrangements, formalised through letters of approval. These arrangements ensure that the regulation of MoD installations is consistent with that used for equivalent civilian operators where practicable.

1. HMNB Clyde

Located 25 miles north west of Glasgow, HMNB Clyde consists of the naval base at Faslane and the arms depot at Coulport.

Letters of agreement between the MoD and SEPA limit:

  • discharges of liquid radioactive waste into Gare Loch from Faslane
  • discharges of tritium (gas) into the atmosphere from Coulport
  • the disposal of solid radioactive waste from each site

2. Rosyth Royal Dockyard

Rosyth Royal Dockyard is located on the Firth of Forth in Fife.

Following public consultation, Rosyth was chosen to undertake the dismantling of seven nuclear submarines due to the facilities, skills and experience already available on site. The type of site to be used for the storage of intermediate level radioactive waste is still being assessed.

The MoD has a specific programme for deciding on the most appropriate way of dismantling and disposing of submarines, called the Submarine Dismantling Project.

Submarine dismantling will be closely regulated by a number of independent bodies, including SEPA, to ensure it is conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible way.

3. Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment

Situated next to Dounreay, Vulcan is the test centre for naval reactors.

It is an MoD Authorised site, which is equivalent to a civilian nuclear licensed site. New letters of approval were issued to Vulcan in 2009. 

At present, solid and liquid disposals from the site are made to Dounreay. The site will finish its programme of reactor testing by 2015 and will then go through defueling and decommissioning.

We are liaising with the Office for Nuclear Regulation on the regulatory implications of the site’s decommissioning.

Contact us

For more information on any aspect of the nuclear industry, please contact us.