Nuclear Energy in the UK: Safety Culture and Industrial Organisation

Nuttall, William J. and Earp, John E. (2014). Nuclear Energy in the UK: Safety Culture and Industrial Organisation. In: Nam, Ilchong and Rothwell, Geoffrey eds. New Nuclear Power Industry Procurement Market: International Experiences. Research Monographs (2014-01). Sejong-Si, South Korea: Korea Development Institute, pp. 142–183.



In this paper we seek to explore the relationship between professionalism and nuclear safety in the UK. We consider the history of civil nuclear energy in Britain and the near complete shift in emphasis from state owned enterprises to the private sector. We show how in recent years government has acknowledged that a truly liberalised electricity industry is unable to deliver the construction of new nuclear power stations as part of a future low carbon electricity system. Throughout, however, the intention has been for policy merely to incentivise the private sector rather than to steer industry strategy directly. Having said that, the line between strong incentives and weak control can be hard to see. We present illustrative examples, real and fictional, that give insight into the UK nuclear safety culture and we discuss the wider nature of UK society with respect to corruption. We conclude that the unique basis of safety regulation in the UK, essentially permissive rather than prescriptive, has a key role to play in promoting and maintaining nuclear professionalism.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions