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Energy Act 2004

Section 3: Designated responsibilities

43.Section 3 sets out the principal functions of the NDA and arrangements for the NDA to be given designated responsibility for particular installations, sites or facilities. In line with the White Paper (Cm. 5552), the prime function is the decommissioning and cleaning up of designated nuclear installations and designated nuclear sites. The definitions of ‘nuclear site’ and ‘person with control’ are to be found in section 36 and other key terms are defined in section 37. Decommissioning and cleaning up are defined broadly in section 37(1) to include dealing with anything that needs to be removed so that the site or installation is suitable to be used for other purposes and to include the construction of any new facilities which might be required for achieving it. “Installation” is defined in section 37 to include buildings, structures and “apparatus”, and a “nuclear installation” to mean an installation on a principal nuclear site plus any pipes, conduits and other apparatus connected to it that are not on the principal nuclear site, but not including an installation comprised in an NDA facility.

44.Section 3 is framed in general terms so that, in addition to the BNFL and UKAEA sites described in the White Paper, the Government could in future give the NDA responsibility for the decommissioning and cleaning up of Ministry of Defence sites and, with the consent of the company concerned, also give it responsibility for securing the decommissioning and cleaning up of sites operated by companies in the private sector. This last point reflects both recent experience with BE and responses to the White Paper which suggested that it would be in the public interest if the NDA’s responsibilities could go wider than public sector civil nuclear liabilities as proposed in the White Paper.

45.Paragraph (a) of subsection (1) covers the operation of Magnox nuclear power stations pending the commencement of their decommissioning. Paragraph (d) covers the operation of designated facilities for treating, storing, transporting and disposing of hazardous material. “Hazardous material” includes nuclear matter and radioactive waste. The note on section 37 contains more detail on the definition of ‘hazardous material’. Paragraph (d) will include the operation of BNFL’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (“THORP”), the Sellafield MOX Plant (“SMP”) and other commercial plants and facilities at Sellafield, which, as the White Paper explained, for regulatory and operational reasons, has to be managed as a single, integrated site. “Treating” includes reprocessing and manufacturing fuel (see the definition of “treat” in section 37) to cover some of the operational installations which will fall under the responsibility of the NDA, such as THORP and SMP. Many facilities will include buildings, structures or apparatus and accordingly “facility” in paragraph (d) is defined in section 37 to include an installation (see note on section 37 below). This means that installations contained in facilities on principal nuclear sites can be designated for decommissioning under subsection (1)(b) or, if they are comprised in NDA facilities, under subsection (1)(f), see below. “Facility” also includes a business or undertaking so, for example, the NDA could be given responsibility for operating the BNFL subsidiary which transports nuclear fuel and spent fuel. No decision has yet been taken on that. Subsection (1)(d) also covers the low level waste disposal site at Drigg.

46.Paragraph (e) of subsection (1) is intended to cover situations where the NDA has responsibility for treating, storing and disposing of nuclear matter, radioactive waste or contaminated matter which is not necessarily on a nuclear site which is the responsibility of the NDA.

47.Paragraph (f) of subsection (1) covers the decommissioning of installations which form part of facilities which the NDA has had responsibility for operating under subsection (1)(d). Such installations are not included in the definition of ‘nuclear installation’ and cannot therefore be designated under subsection (1)(b). Disposal facilities do not currently require a licence under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (c.57), and it is conceivable that certain kinds of treatment or storage facilities may not be licensable. The Act therefore provides for the cleaning-up of a category of principal nuclear site on which there is a treatment, storage or disposal facility that has been operated by the NDA but which is not on a licensed or Crown site. “Nuclear site” is defined in section 36.

48.Subsection (2) explains by way of a cross reference that the NDA can only discharge its responsibilities under section 3 by carrying out its duties under sections 15 and 16.

49.Subsection (3) provides that designation of an installation, site or facility or for the treatment, storage, transportation or disposal of matter or waste is achieved by means of a direction given by the Secretary of State to the NDA.

50.Subsection (4) provides that the NDA can only be given responsibility for installations, sites or facilities which are controlled by a Crown appointee, the UKAEA, a publicly owned nuclear company (for example, BNFL) (or the wholly owned subsidiary of such a company), the NDA itself, or otherwise where the person with control of that installation, site or facility has given his consent.

51.Subsection (5) requires directions to cite the specific provision in subsection (1) under which a designation is being made. Subsection (6) requires the NDA to decommission all installations on a principal nuclear site designated for cleaning‑up, unless the designation specifically provides otherwise.

52.Subsection (7) requires the Secretary of State to lay a copy of every direction containing a designation before Parliament and to publish it subject, in both cases, to the exclusion of any material which, in his view, should – under subsection (9) – be withheld in the interests of national security.

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