Nuclear industry

We regulate the management of radioactive substances, including those from the nuclear industry.  This page provides information on the regulation of the nuclear industry.

What is the nuclear industry?

The nuclear industry includes power stations that generate electricity from a nuclear reactor, nuclear sites undergoing decommissioning and some defence activities.

How do we regulate the nuclear industry?

We regulate the management of radioactive substances under the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EA(S)R. There are four types of authorisations under EA(S)R:

  • general binding rules (GBRs);
  • notification;
  • registration;
  • permit

We issue permits and registrations to the nuclear industry containing conditions under which radioactive substances can be managed. We inspect authorised persons to assess compliance against their authorisation. For more information on what activities require which type of authorisation please see the Authorisation guide.  To make an application please visit our application page.

Civil nuclear licensed sites in operation

At civil nuclear licensed sites, our role is to regulate the management of radioactive waste in accordance with the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 and other environmental legislation. We work with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) at civil nuclear licensed sites and we have a Memorandum of Understanding with them. There are two civil nuclear licensed sites in Operation in Scotland, Torness Power Station and Hunterston B Power Station.

Decommissioning sites

Decommissioning is a complex operation and timescales can extend from decades to hundreds of years. A number of Scotland’s nuclear licensed facilities have reached the end of their productive life and are in varying stages of decommissioning. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for overseeing the decommissioning of the UK's civil nuclear sites. We maintain a Memorandum of Understanding with the NDA, in which they agree to develop and maintain an effective and transparent working relationship with us.

The decommissioning sites in Scotland are Dounreay, Chapelcross Power Station and Hunterston A Power Station.

Decommisioning 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.

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:
  • allow the nuclear site operator to surrender their environmental permit.

Ministry of Defence sites

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites in Scotland are HMNB Clyde, Rosyth Royal Dockyard and the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment. The MoD is exempt from the provisions of Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations. 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 EA(S)R 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.

The Nuclear Industry Liaison Group

Together with the Environment Agency and Natural Resource Wales, we chair the Nuclear Industry Liaison Group (NILG), which meets twice a year to provide a forum for discussion between nuclear site operators and the UK environment agencies and other regulators.

The meetings cover topics such as forthcoming government policy, legislation and environment agencies’ 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.

Contact us

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