Many people familiar with the nuclear industry know the NRC inspects the facilities of the licensees it regulates. But what may be less well known is that the agency also inspects companies that provide safety-related components and services for these licensees.
The vendor inspection program at the NRC got its start in the 1970s under the Atomic Energy Commission and continued in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) until very recently. The vendor inspection program in NRR primarily performed inspections of vendors that provide safety-related parts and services to the operating reactor fleet. While NRR did perform some routine inspections, many of their inspections were in response to operating experience, reports of defects and noncompliance made in accordance with 10 CFR Part 21, and allegations.
In late 2006, the NRC created the Office of New Reactors (NRO) and a second vendor inspection program to perform routine inspections of vendors that provide safety-related parts and services for new reactors. This is where I’ve worked as a vendor inspector for the past several years.
While the two programs worked closely together, they had separate inspection programs, inspection manuals and inspection procedures. They also spent a lot of time ensuring that the enforcement actions and inspection efforts were consistent between the two programs. So this year, the NRC decided to develop a Vendor Inspection Center of Expertise (COE) to increase cooperation between the two offices and streamline activities.
The Vendor Inspection COE, now located in NRO, is responsible for performing reactive inspections in response to operating experience, reports of defects and noncompliance made in accordance with 10 CFR Part 21, and allegations. In addition, it conducts inspections to verify the effective implementation of vendor quality assurance programs to assure the quality of materials, equipment, and services supplied to the commercial nuclear power reactor industry.
By combining the two vendor inspection programs into one center, the agency can reduce duplicate guidance and the level of resources needed to ensure consistent enforcement actions and inspection effort. The center also will provide a better environment for knowledge management for the vendor inspection staff, and provide the junior staff better accessibility to senior staff for mentoring and on-the-job training.Samantha Crane Mechanical Vendor Inspection Branch Office of New Reactors