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Energy Act 2008

Section 101: Security of sensitive nuclear information

585.This section relates to the securing of sensitive nuclear information pertaining to uranium enrichment. Previously, such information could only be kept on licensed nuclear sites which also held a permit to undertake the enrichment of uranium. Restructuring of the nuclear industry following the Energy Act 2004 means that sensitive nuclear information pertaining to uranium enrichment may now be taken, and stored, away from those licensed sites (for example, at research facilities).

586.To ensure the security of that sensitive nuclear information, there is already appropriate legislation in place which applies to anyone lawfully holding such information, and which prohibits disclosure of it by that person. However, the sanctions available against persons stealing or attempting to steal such information from premises which are not licensed to undertake uranium enrichment, are only those available for the offences of burglary or theft.

587.The Government does not feel these sanctions are strong enough. This is because theft and onward dissemination to others of information pertaining to uranium enrichment has implications for national security.

588.The overall effect of the section is to allow the offences and stronger sanctions that exist under the Official Secrets Acts to be used to prosecute persons stealing or attempting to steal sensitive nuclear information from designated premises. The section achieves this through a number of steps that are set out below.

589.The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (c.24) makes provisions about terrorism and security. This section adds a new section, 80A, to the 2001 Act.

New section 80A Extension of the Official Secrets Acts to certain places

590.Subsection (1) of this new section provides that certain premises holding sensitive nuclear information, should be deemed as belonging to, or used for the purposes of, the Crown. This will allow the Secretary of State to make an order designating those premises holding uranium enrichment technology as “prohibited places” by virtue of section 3(c) of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (c.28). Subsection (1) is a necessary part of the section because only premises belonging to, or used for the purposes of, the Crown may be designated as “prohibited places” under section 3(c) of the Official Secrets Act 1911.

591.The overall effect of designating these premises as prohibited places is to extend the Official Secrets Acts’ offences and sanctions to persons gaining entry, or attempting to gain entry, to those premises.

592.The penalty for breach of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (c.28), by virtue of section 8(1) of the Official Secrets Act 1920 (c.75), is a custodial sentence of not less than 3 years and not more than 14 years. Section 1(2) of the Official Secrets Act 1911 sets out that in prosecuting persons under the Act, it is not necessary to prove that a person broke into that “prohibited place” for a purpose which would adversely affect the security interests of the State. Once orders are made by the Secretary of State designating certain premises as prohibited places, the protection afforded by section 1(2) will apply. This reflects the potential impact on national security.

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