December 31, 2012
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The NRC’s public comment period on the scope of an environmental impact statement for the waste confidence decision and rule ends January 2. The waste confidence decision and rule is related to the safety of spent fuel storage. So far, we have received more than 400 wide-ranging comments and suggestions on issues we should cover in this important document. Several more are anticipated before the deadline.
In addition to the hundreds of thoughtful comments on the scope of the environmental impact statement, we received much criticism on the scoping process itself, in particular with regard to the length of the scoping period, the January 2 deadline, how the notice was phrased, and whether the NRC was in compliance with its regulations. These concerns have been reviewed and considered by the NRC staff and the Commission. NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane also responded in a letter earlier this month to some of the overarching concerns that have been raised.
The Commission maintained the original 70-day formal comment period, as it provides in its judgment sufficient time for the public to develop thoughtful comments. This period is also consistent with, or longer than, most other comment periods for other NRC actions. The scoping notice was published on October 25, 2012, and the NRC has held four public meetings to date.
The NRC will take into consideration all of the comments received and develop a draft environmental impact statement and proposed rule by August 2013. The public will also have an opportunity to comment on these documents. We plan to hold a number of regional public meetings across the U.S. after their issuance.
For more information about the NRC’s ongoing efforts to develop a generic environmental impact statement to support a revised Waste Confidence Decision and Rule, please visit the NRC’s website. While there, you can also sign up for automatic updates.
Director, Waste Confidence Directorate
December 26, 2012
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The terms “chilling effect” or “chilled work environment” are important ones for the NRC. And they’re not referring to the winter weather.
At the NRC, “chilled” refers to a perception that the raising of safety concerns is being suppressed or discouraged – either outright with discrimination — or by a slow or no response. Depending on whether this perception is held by one person or a group of employees determines whether this is “a chillding effect” or a “chilled work environment.”
In either case, the NRC takes any allegation regarding the suppression of safety concerns seriously.
Recognizing that licensees have the first responsibility for safety and are in the best position to respond promptly to a safety matter, the NRC encourages workers to first raise safety concerns with their management. For this to happen, workers must feel free to raise potential safety issues directly to their management.
The NRC recognizes that if workers are subjected to harassment, intimidation, retaliation, discrimination, or other discouraging behaviors by management for reporting safety concerns, a “chilled” work environment may be created that could inhibit workers from reporting additional safety concerns. If this happens, a valuable source of information for maintaining and improving safety is lost.
In its simplest sense, if a worker at a facility the NRC regulates (or who works in connection with licensed materials) chooses to submit an allegation to the NRC rather than with their employer it may be an indication that the worker is “chilled.” For this reason, the trending of allegation information can provide the NRC with insights into the work environment of our licensees, including whether they are providing a safety conscious work environment.
For more information about the NRC’s allegation process visit our website at http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/allegations/what-is-allegation.html .
Maria E. Schwartz
Sr. Program Manager
Concerns Resolution Branch
Office of Enforcement