U.S. NRC Blog

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Monthly Archives: May 2012

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

NRC Office of Investigations Issues Its Annual Report

The Office of Investigations, an independent investigative office within the NRC, has recently put out its latest annual report. The report includes information on significant investigations in FY 2011, including:

FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant – A former radiation protection technician was found to have prepared, signed and submitted records to the NRC that falsely documented NRC-required tests that were not conducted.

St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant – Two radiation protection technicians were found to have falsified health physics surveys and one of the two was found to have bypassed the radiation reader station at the entrance to the radiation-controlled area of the plant.

Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant – A former operator was found to have violated radiation protection procedures and technical safety requirements by not adhering to radiation protection procedures when moving a contaminated object within the plant.

Arkansas Nuclear One Nuclear Power Plant – A security officer was found to have falsified NRC-required security logs and did not perform required security checks.

The Office of Investigations develops policy, procedures, and quality control standards for investigations of licensees, applicants, their contractors or vendors. It conducts investigations of all allegations of wrongdoing by other than NRC employees and contractors, and makes referrals of substantiated criminal cases to the Department of Justice.

The investigations are conducted by special agents who are specially trained, with extensive background and experience in federal criminal investigations. They are assisted by a highly experienced cadre of professional support staff.

Brian Sentz
Office of Investigations

NRC Gets Recognitions

Recently the NRC received recognition in two areas and we are very proud of the achievement!

First, the NRC was recently ranked #10 in the 21st Annual “Top 20 Government Agencies” in Woman Engineer Magazine. The readers of Woman Engineer magazine selected the top agencies in the country for which they would most like to work or whom they believe would provide a positive working environment for women engineers. This list is the result of an annual reader survey mailed to randomly selected readers of Woman Engineer magazine.

Second, the NRC was honored as a 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Semi-Finalist in the Public Sector category. The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given to employers by the Department of Defense (DOD) for exceptional support of their Guard and Reserve employees. Nominations are from Guard and Reserve members or family members acting on their behalf. In 2012 there were 133 semi-finalists nationwide out of an impressive pool of 3,236.

We are proud of this recognition and wanted to share it with you!

Kim English
Outreach & Recruitment Branch

Statement of NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko

After nearly eight years on the Commission, I am announcing my resignation as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, effective upon the confirmation of my successor. My responsibility and commitment to safety will continue to be my paramount priority after I leave the Commission and until my successor is confirmed.

After an incredibly productive three years as Chairman, I have decided this is the appropriate time to continue my efforts to ensure public safety in a different forum. This is the right time to pass along the public safety torch to a new chairman who will keep a strong focus on carrying out the vital mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

During this last year alone, the agency has responded with an impressive focus on safety under my leadership to a number of diverse challenges including the accident at the Fukushima Da-ichi reactors in Japan, and a number of severe incidents at reactors in the United States ranging from flooding, an earthquake and tornados to damaged plant structures and steam generator problems. In addition to this vigilant oversight, together we identified and began to implement lessons learned from Fukushima and completed our rigorous safety reviews for the first new reactor licenses in 30 years.

Throughout my time on the Commission as both Chairman and Commissioner, the agency finalized regulations to ensure new reactors are designed to withstand an aircraft impact, completed the development and implementation of a safety culture policy statement, enhanced our focus on openness and transparency, and enhanced awareness of and worked to resolve some of the most long-standing generic issues facing the nuclear industry, including sump strainer issues and fire protection. Beyond the power reactor work, substantial progress was made in establishing a more transparent and effective oversight program for fuel cycle facilities. In addition, radioactive sources of concern are now fully protected with our new security regulations and source tracking system. We stand as a stronger and more decisive regulator now because of these years of efforts. I am truly humbled by the agency’s success.

Serving the American people as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been an honor and privilege. The mission of this agency – protecting people and the environment, and providing for the common defense and security – could not be more clear, or more critical. Our collective focus on that mission was, I believe, one of the primary reasons the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was one of the best places to work in the federal government throughout my tenure. The highly talented and dedicated professional staff, including dozens who have served on my personal staff over the years, have been instrumental in fulfilling the agency’s mission.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity of having served alongside the staff for all of these years, and for all that we accomplished together. I am looking forward to bringing all I have learned from my work and focus on safety at this agency with me as I move forward.

Note: Transcript of later press conference 0524nrc1652

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