Conflict of Interest Alleged in U.K. Atomic Regulator’s Work

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Global Security Newswire Staff
May 27, 2014, 9:14 a.m.

The U.K. atom­ic reg­u­lat­or’s tech­nic­al con­tracts have cre­ated con­flicts of in­terest that threaten the of­fice’s abil­ity to do its job, the Lon­don In­de­pend­ent re­ports.

The Of­fice for Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­la­tion cur­rently re­ceives sup­port from some of the same firms it is re­quired to reg­u­late, in­clud­ing the U.S. en­gin­eer­ing con­glom­er­ate Jac­obs, which is a mem­ber of the Atom­ic Weapons Es­tab­lish­ment con­sor­ti­um that designs and pro­duces com­pon­ents of the Brit­ish nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al, ac­cord­ing to the Tues­day art­icle.

In April, the watch­dog or­gan­iz­a­tion awar­ded Jac­obs a five-year con­tract to provide tech­nic­al as­sist­ance in such areas as ex­amin­ing de­con­tam­in­a­tion and ex­tern­al risks re­lated to on­go­ing work at atom­ic sites and new re­act­or designs.

Nuc­le­ar Waste Ad­vis­ory As­so­ci­ates mem­ber Dav­id Lowry ar­gued the reg­u­lat­or’s tech­nic­al ad­vice con­tracts clearly rep­res­ent a “con­flict of in­terest.”

“It’s such a straight­for­ward con­flict of in­terest. This is in­defens­ible,” Lowry said.

While Of­fice for Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­la­tion chair­man Nick Bald­win ac­know­ledged that “we have these con­cerns, too,” he said there ex­is­ted only a “small gene pool” of com­pan­ies with the abil­ity to fur­nish the tech­nic­al re­com­mend­a­tions that his in­spect­ors need to per­form their jobs. He said no in­di­vidu­als that provide ad­vice to the reg­u­lat­or also work on the pro­jects that his agency is in charge of over­see­ing.

“ONR would not tol­er­ate a situ­ation in which a per­son car­ry­ing out an as­sess­ment for ONR is also work­ing on a re­lated mat­ter for a cur­rent or pro­spect­ive li­censee,” an uniden­ti­fied spokes­man from the reg­u­lat­or said. “Should a po­ten­tial con­flict of in­terest emerge, we have a clear pro­tocol that provides a ro­bust pro­cess and defines clear cri­ter­ia against which the emer­ging con­flict can be judged.”

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