Surveys Help the NRC Assess Itself

Recently, the NRC’s Inspector General released the preliminary findings of an internal “safety culture and climate” survey that canvassed employee opinions on a wide range of workplace issues. This survey is conducted every three years by an independent consulting firm.

While the survey answers are still being analyzed, the results are generally positive—especially in the categories of workload and support, and training opportunities. The quality of internal communications also scored well, although it seems we have more work to do explaining why decisions were made.

We have also identified areas where the agency slipped compared to recent years, and will require special attention. These include: the ability to raise different professional opinions or challenge the prevailing view; recognizing and respecting the value of human differences; and developing people to their full potential. I do want to emphasize that while we are identifying areas for improvement, the overall results for the NRC are above industry and national norms.

These findings generally confirmed what we have learned so from the government-wide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey—conducted earlier this year. According to the preliminary results, the NRC ranks first among federal agencies in both Leadership & Knowledge Management and Talent Management; second in Job Satisfaction; and third in Results-Oriented Performance Culture. Like the internal safety culture survey, there are also areas we are identifying for focused improvement.

The details of both surveys will continue to emerge during the next several months. The agency’s senior managers will be assessing the information in a coordinated manner to identify specific focus areas. Agency-wide action planning has already begun, and office and regional level action planning will begin at several “Results to Action” workshops in mid-January.

The bottom line for me and the other managers at the NRC—no matter how well the agency does on surveys—is to keep examining how to improve as leaders in this agency and, ultimately, as government civil servants entrusted with a serious and important role in the safety and security of this nation.

Bill Borchardt
Executive Director for Operations

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

6 thoughts on “Surveys Help the NRC Assess Itself”

  1. The NRC always appreciates suggestions to better improve the working environment of its employees. As an example, all of the regions (and many offices) have either formal or informal methods of collecting comments and suggestions from their employees. Although no annual assessment is done, the entire agency, as well as the regions, participate in annual OPM surveys, as well as the triennial survey performed by the OIG via an independent contractor. Public comments are analyzed annually through meeting feedback forms distributed at every public meeting, and changes to our processes have been made often in response to these comments. In addition, a number of surveys and focus groups have been performed over the years with specific stakeholder populations in activities such as emergency planning, and the readability of NRC documents and web pages. We will continue to seek opportunities to obtain feedback from our employees and our stakeholders as part of our normal efforts toward continuous improvement.

    Bill Borchardt

  2. Dear Mr. Bill Borchardt,

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF THE NRC STAFF FAMILY. Please remember. ” Life is a Unique Opportunity for the USNRC Staff to ensure the safety of the American Society.”

  3. I see your strategy of throwing lots of facts and numbers to present some kind of case, but let’s talk safety analysis of your highly improbable scenario.

    First, main steam line break outside containment is a postulated limiting fault. It is not expected to occur during plant life. So this in and of itself is extremely rare. (generally less than 1e-7 per year)

    Second, failure to isolate. You will get isolations (during main steam line break) on high streamline flow (instantaneously- and requires multiple sensor failures in order for this to not trip as there are typically 4 sensors on each main steam line), high steam tunnel temperature, high turbine area temperature, or high radiation detected. You would need either all of these to fail, again multiple sensors, OR you would need both the inboard and outboard MSIVs to fail close. Not only is this beyond design basis, but it is extraordinarily unlikely. There is no common mode of failure for both the inboard and outboard MSIV. So as of this point we require at least 3 failures, 2 of which are not expected to occur. (we are well below 1E-7 now)

    So now, even if we assume all of these extremely unlikely beyond design basis events happen to occur simultaneously, and we assume that your theory of tube damage is correct, the leakage of primary coolant from the reactor is less than the worst case LOCA analysis for the plant, meaning all ECCS systems will be able to recover the plant even without operator intervention. The high head and safety injection systems will protect the core until the core pressure blows down, an automatic reactor scram will occur, low pressure safety injection will come in as the reactor cools down, and once sufficiently depressurized, you can maintain core cooling using decay heat removal pumps and coolant release stops. There is no meltdown issue here. The only issue I could come up with, is this might challenge iodine exposure to operators during the event due to the massive discharge of reactor coolant, but it would not adversely affect the health and safety of the public.

    That is, unless you have some actual insight on reactor safety analysis and know something that disproves all existing reactor safety analysis.

  4. Mr. Bill Borchardt

    It is no joke, that many would love to help the NRC to access itself…

    Internal surveys are helpful if they actually change the workplace environment, otherwise they become yet another topic for discussion that usually leads nowhere and too often leads to employee frustration, especially if those that took the time to responded in great detail, feel that their suggestions fell on deaf ears or worse, ran counter to what their supervisors believe is right.

    One suggestion (no pun intended) is to monitor the number of suggestions submitted monthly (by Region) along with what if anything was done once they were received, then do a yearly analysis of all suggestions (by Region) and I predict that it will “open your eyes” as to how acceptable change is received, not only by the NRC, but by the individual Regions that make up the NRC.

    Another suggestion is that it would be smart for the NRC to survey the general public to develop a better picture of how good a job the public feels the NRC is doing and especially identify any areas where the public feels that the NRC is failing its mission. A good example is the upcoming meeting on Friday, November 30, 2012, (which will be held in a room with only about 300 seats, between 6 and 9 p.m. (PDT) at the Hills Hotel, 25205 La Paz Road in Laguna Hills, Calif.), the choice of location and seating capacity may seem like small issues to the NRC but to all those forced to travel great distances in rush hour, on a Friday, to attend this meetings and or having to arrive many, many hours ahead of the meeting in order to get “a seat” creates Unnecessary frustration, especially when interested locals have urged the NRC to use larger less expensive venues. If the NRC actually wants public involvement, then they have to do a much better job making it easier for the public to actually take part, instead of just being spectators.

  5. Nice Article. People have gained lots of knowledge from your article. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Dear Mr. Bill Borchardt,

    A NRC Branch Chief gifted with MIT Intelligence, Intuition and a Sixth Sense, who is an acquantaince of mine, said to an anonymous participant at an Industry Conference, “Sir, to resolve any complex technical problem and understand unclear regulations, you have to, ‘Read and reread in between the lines’, use, ‘Critical questioning and an investigative attitude’ and ‘Solid Teamwork & Alignment.”

    San Onofre Unit 2 Replacement Generators in the “As designed and Degraded Configuration”, if allowed to restart, will cause a nuclear meltdown due to a Potential Non-Isolable Main Steam Line Break Outside Containment with failure of MSIV to close. The SGs have numerous tubes with low clearances some as small as 0.05 inches, NO in-plane support protection, degraded AVBs with more than 2000 wear indications, 5 Active with TTW ranging from 21-28%, 500 plugged/stabilized tubes, and retainer bars, which will vibrate with large amplitudes due to low natural frequency. Due to 100% voiding in the entire degraded U-tube bundle, fluid elastic instability, flow-induced vibrations and MHI Flowering Effect, Feedwater Flashing to Steam, these degraded tubes will hit each other violently and leak/rupture other degraded tubes like crackers. Due to radiation/steam environment, sonic booms due to steam line ruptures, difficulty in operator communication, no operator action is assumed to pressurize the degraded generator. San Onofre is an INPO 4 Plant, with the worst maintenance, nuclear and fire safety, and emergency preparedness record. The public perception is that NRC Region IV has historically not provided a very good oversight of San Onofre. NRC has very smart and talented Engineers. May be you can intervene to stop this catastrophe for 8.4 Million Southern Californians by having another region independently Review the SCE SONGS Unit 2 Restart Plan. Thanks, just trying to be of help to the Public, NRC and Nuclear Industry…. Sincerly Help All Hurt Never Baba

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