Singing From the Same Safety Culture Song Sheet

Ronald Frahm
Senior Reactor Operations Engineer

What’s in a word? If words are the currency of communication, then common language is important for smooth interaction without misunderstanding or conflict. Think of the many clichés that make this point: “On the same wavelength,” “speaking the same lingo,” or “lost in translation.”

communicationmessThe NRC and the nuclear power industry have taken a significant step toward improving our communication by adopting common language in the important area of safety culture. Safety culture – the idea that safety comes first – is a priority for the NRC, as expressed in our safety culture policy statement revised in 2011. Over the past few years, NRC staff members have met with industry representatives and other interested parties to agree on common language to express safety culture. To use another cliché, we’re now on the same page.

Now it’s time to put that common verbiage into action. As of January 1, the NRC is integrating this common safety culture language into our Reactor Oversight Process, or ROP. The ROP is the agency’s method of assessing a nuclear power plant’s performance by identifying and responding to problems in seven cornerstones of safety, as well as cross-cutting aspects that impact more than one cornerstone.

Using common safety culture language in the ROP will promote clearer and more consistent communication between the NRC and industry about these cross-cutting aspects.

These are not substantial changes to the ROP. The goals, processes and procedures of our regulatory oversight of nuclear plants have not changed. The changes simply incorporate the common-language terminology into the ROP and do not affect the process for applying cross-cutting aspects to findings or evaluating cross-cutting themes.

For example, “The licensee defines and effectively communicates expectations regarding procedural compliance and personnel follow procedures,” has been replaced with “Individuals follow processes, procedures, and work instructions.”

communicationmessAlso, “The licensee takes appropriate corrective actions to address safety issues and adverse trends in a timely manner, commensurate with their safety significance and complexity” is now rendered as “The organization takes effective correction actions to address issues in a timely manner commensurate with their safety significance.” Simple, straightforward, and less bureaucratic, even if we couldn’t get “commensurate” out of there altogether.

These and other changes implementing the common safety culture language are spelled out in a revised Inspection Manual Chapter 0310. Inspection reports for 2013 as well as the end-of-cycle reports to be issued in March will still use the previous language and guidance. The new language will be for inspections conducted in 2014 and in the mid-cycle assessments to be issued in September.

Author: Moderator

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

4 thoughts on “Singing From the Same Safety Culture Song Sheet”

  1. The NRC and the nuclear power industry take good decision to improve safety culture. Its a very good idea. Thanks for your nice decision.

  2. “…if they really want to encourage public input”?? Mr. Frahm’s post did not raise that topic. The goal of greater public input is not being discussed here. Certainly, the regulatory process provides for access by interested parties, but it is not the NRCs mandate to reduce the complexities of nuclear engineering to the 4th grade level. Go see the NEI site for educational material suitable for school children.

  3. I sincerely hope the NRC is not learning to speak “nuclear-ese” so well that they forget that they were created to work on behalf of the public rather than nuclear industry’s benefit.

  4. Taking a lesson from the FAA, the NRC needs to use ENGLISH that those outside the NRC and nuclear industry can understand, if they really want to encourage public input!

    By using only “tech speak”, both the NRC and the nuclear industry are just white-wahing what is actually going on and that practice has allowed things like San Onofre’s billion dollar replacement steam generator debacle to occur, simply because nobody really could explain what was happening so that others could question what SCE was doing, because much of it was and still is “proprietary information”, which is just another phrase for “we don’t need to tell you anything about what we are doing”…

    Also left unsaid, is that it is widely known that if you cannot explain something clearly then you really don’t understand it.

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