Resolving Disputes the NRC Way

Did you know that you may have consented to arbitrate a dispute — if one comes up — when you agreed to the terms for a credit card?

One of the main reasons companies have turned to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), is that it provides an alternative to more costly and time-consuming court hearings and litigation. And, because it is a less complex process, it is generally viewed as beneficial to both parties. Other advantages of using ADR include that practical solutions can be tailored to the parties’ interests and needs, that agreements are durable, that some level of confidentiality is assured, and finally, that relationships can be preserved.

The NRC’s Office of Enforcement (OE) has an ADR Program. The ADR Program is made up of two different sub-programs: “Early ADR” and “Post-Investigation ADR.”

Early ADR is an informal and voluntary process between an individual and his or her employer (or former employer) in which a trained mediator works with the parties to help them settle their dispute. Early resolution of discrimination allegations tends to preserve relationships and generally promotes a safety conscious work environment by facilitating timely and amicable resolution of discrimination concerns without resorting to prolonged litigation and unnecessary expenses.

Post-Investigation ADR may produce more timely and effective outcomes for the NRC and an entity, such as an NRC licensee, certificate holder, or contractor of an NRC licensee or certificate holder.

Participation in either early or post-investigation ADR is voluntary. The parties involved may withdraw from the mediation process at any time. If mediation is unsuccessful in the case of early ADR, OE may initiate an investigation into the allegation of discrimination; while, in the case of post-investigation ADR, OE may proceed with an enforcement action.

Because ADR is regularly used in the NRC’s enforcement program, the NRC is holding a public meeting on November 8, to solicit stakeholder input to ensure that the program provides timely and economical resolution of issues while achieving more effective outcomes and improved relations.

We welcome your attendance at this meeting or in providing comments to some of the issues that will be discussed at this meeting. Information on how to do either is in this Federal Register notice . We look forward to meeting you or, if you are unable to attend, hearing from you.

Maria Schwartz
Office of Enforcement

New Data Set Focuses on Nuclear Reactor Oversight

As forecast in our previous blog post on the NRC’s continuing commitment to Open Government, the agency has just published another key set of data – commercial nuclear power plant performance indicators — to the Data.gov website.

Part of the agency’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP), these performance indicators are directly linked to the NRC’s mission. The ROP includes seven cornerstones of safety that focus on the licensee’s ability to operate the plant safely, to respond promptly and appropriately to emergencies, to protect plant workers and the communities and to protect against the design-basis threat of radiological sabotage.

Within each cornerstone, a broad sample of data on which to assess licensee performance is gathered from performance indicator (PI) data submitted by licensees and from the NRC’s inspections. The PIs are not intended to provide complete coverage of every aspect of plant design and operation, but are intended to be an indicator of performance within the related cornerstone.

Data submitted by each licensee is used by the NRC to calculate PI values. These values are then compared to objective thresholds to determine the performance band associated with those values. The bands are color coded.

Plant data for a PI that falls within the “green” band indicates licensee performance is within the expected range. The “white” band indicates that performance is outside of the expected range and can be characterized as of low to moderate safety significance, but performance remains acceptable. Performance in the “yellow” band indicates a more significant decline in performance and can be characterized as being of substantial significance. Performance is considered acceptable, but a reduction in safety margin exists.

Performance in the “red” band indicates a very significant decline in performance. Changes can be characterized as being of high safety significance. Performance may be acceptable with a significant reduction in safety margin or may be unacceptable.

PIs are a way of obtaining performance information in each of the cornerstone areas. They provide an indication of problems that, if uncorrected, may increase the probability and/or the consequences of an “off-normal “event. Since not all aspects of licensee performance can be monitored by PIs, some safety significant areas are assessed through inspection.

Reporting of PI data to the NRC is a voluntary program in which all operating reactor plants participate. Once the data is confirmed by the NRC, they are entered into the Reactor Program of quarterly machine-readable data beginning in the third quarter of 2009 through the second quarter of 2011. New data will be published quarterly in the month following the close of each quarter.

Bill Cartwright
Technical Assistant
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation