How the NRC uses Enforcement to Protect People and the Environment

A big part of the NRC’s mission to protect people and the environment depends on the companies and individuals we regulate meeting our requirements. The NRC’s Office of Enforcement has a number of tools that serve as deterrents and emphasize the importance of compliance with NRC requirements. These tools encourage the prompt identification and timely correction of violations by the licensee, certificate holder, or applicant. They include, in part, Notices of Violations, civil penalties, and Orders that modify, suspend or revoke a License.

The NRC’s Enforcement Policy spells out the NRC’s policies and procedures in initiating enforcement actions and the responsibilities of the Commission in reviewing these actions. But it is important to remember that a policy statement is not a regulation and the Commission may decide to deviate from the policy statement to respond appropriately to the circumstances of a particular case.

To identify violations of its regulations, the NRC conducts inspections and investigations. Violations have varying levels of significance. In assessing the significance of a violation, the NRC considers four specific factors:

(1) actual safety or security consequences;

(2) potential safety or security consequences;

(3) impact on the ability of the NRC to perform its regulatory oversight function; and

(4) willfulness.

Willful violations are of particular concern to the NRC because the agency’s regulatory program is based on licensees and their contractors, employees, and agents acting with integrity. For most violations identified at power reactors, the significance of a violation is assessed using the significance determination process of the Reactor Oversight Process.

The Enforcement Policy was last updated on July 12, 2011, after interaction with affected stakeholders. We’re happy to take any questions or comments you have about the policy in the comments below.

John Wray
Sr. Enforcement Specialist