Using mediation to resolve issues at the FitzPatrick nuclear plant

King Solomon may have been one of history’s most revered mediators, but many others have tried to follow his lead when it comes to resolving disputes in a way that all parties involved can agree on and that yields practical results.

Count the NRC among the proponents of mediation, where appropriate.

The NRC, like many other regulatory agencies, uses a variety of regulatory tools to enforce its regulations. These can include the issuing fines, orders and confirmatory letters, all of which are designed to promote safety by preventing recurrence of the infractions.

But starting in 2004, the agency’s Office of Enforcement added another arrow to its quiver: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Under the ADR Program, a neutral mediator with no decision-making authority assists the parties in reaching an agreement resolving differences for certain enforcement issues.

Most recently, the NRC and Entergy used ADR to achieve a settlement regarding apparent violations at the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant, in Scriba (Oswego County), N.Y. The issues stemmed from failures by radiation protection technicians at the facility to perform or properly execute their duties.

Following an ADR mediation session held in the NRC’s Region I Office on Nov. 9, 2011, the parties arrived at an agreement that will not only lead to additional corrective actions at FitzPatrick but also raise awareness of the issues – and what is needed to prevent such problems — throughout Entergy’s nuclear power plant fleet and at plants nationwide.

For instance, Entergy will prepare a case study about what occurred, with top managers at each of the company’s nuclear power plants presenting the report to employees at their respective facilities. They will have to complete these presentations within 180 days.

In addition, the company will, within 360 days, deliver a presentation to managers of other U.S. nuclear power plants on lessons learned and actions taken in response to the issues identified at FitzPatrick.

Other agencies also make use of ADR in their enforcement programs. They include the Environmental Protection Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Data on the NRC’s use of ADR is available at: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/enforcement/adr/trending-data.html. More information about the use of ADR throughout the federal government is available at: http://www.adr.gov/.

Neil Sheehan
Region I Public Affairs Officer