In Nuclear Power Plants – Behavior Is Under Observation

The NRC requires that all nuclear power plants follow strict access authorization regulations that are intended to make sure only trusted individuals have the OK to be in the most sensitive areas of the plant. These access authorization regulations require fingerprint checks, drug and alcohol screening, psychological testing and other hurdles when employees are first hired, and must be periodically updated if the individuals are to continue to have access to these areas.

But even once a worker has been granted so-called unescorted access, they are still subject to a “behavioral observation program.” In other words, the NRC requires that every plant have a program in which all employees and supervisors are trained in detecting problems such as drug or alcohol abuse or other impairments of employees.

As part of the program, all employees are required to report to their supervisors any suspicious behavior they see among their coworkers. Suspicious behavior could be a worker observed in an area of the plant where they don’t have authorization to be, or if a worker made threatening statements about harming people or plant equipment.

The NRC regulations even require workers to report on themselves or “self-disclose” if they, for whatever reason, believe they are no longer mentally and physically fit to safely perform their duties. An example of this is an employee undergoing marital problems that are causing them stress that interferes with their duties. Such an employee may be referred to an Employee Assistance Program or their assigned duties may be changed until the person is deemed fit for duty.

If a determination is made to deny the person unescorted access for any reason, their name and that fact is entered into an information sharing database that NRC requires all U.S. nuclear power plants to use. Should that person attempt to enter (or get a job at) another nuclear plant, the information about their access status would be available for review by the plant they were attempting to access.

Ultimately, a determination that an employee is not trustworthy or reliable – based on behavior observation or self reporting — has serious implications for that person maintaining their access authorization but such determinations are necessary to keep nuclear power plants operating safely in their communities.

Mark Resner
Access Authorization Program Coordinator

Three White Flint North Project in the Home Stretch for NRC

For the NRC headquarters staff separated from the White Flint Complex, in Rockville Md., this year marks an exciting transition as the newly constructed 14-story office building across the street takes shape. Occupancy of Three White Flint North (3WFN) means the agency’s headquarters staff will once again be consolidated in adjacent buildings — an important component of safety, according to post-Three Mile Island accident findings.

Depicted here, looking south across the White Flint Metro station platform, is left to right, 3WFN, 1WFN, and 2WFN.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the 360,000 square-foot building plus four below-ground parking levels were held in a tent at the 3WFN site on July 6, 2010. Move-in is expected to start at the end of this year and be completed during the first quarter of 2013. The new building is owned by LCOR, Inc., and is leased to the federal government for a 15-year term. The NRC will be the building’s sole tenant.

The new building will provide an additional 1,300 workstations to the headquarters complex allowing the consolidation of headquarters staff and the further “un-crowding” of 1WFN and 2WFN. It also will provide a conference center for public meetings, a full service cafeteria, a larger Professional Development (training) Center, an updated Incident Response Center, and a newly expanded Headquarters Data Center.

An interesting quality of 3WFN is that it is a “green building” project registered under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. “Green building” refers to the design, construction, and operation of buildings in an environmentally friendly way. Some examples of green features for 3WFN’s LEED Silver certification are:

• Interior design concepts, recycled materials, more efficient lighting, heating and air conditioning, and environmental control systems that conserve energy and optimize building performance;

• Water saving high efficiency faucets, toilets, and urinals;

• Its location within ½ mile of mass transit (it’s actually less than 50 yards from the White Flint Metro station entrance and next door to the Metro parking garage); and

• A “green roof” and high reflectance roofing insulation.

Veronika Medina
Communications and Document Specialist