Incorporating Enhanced Fines Into the NRC’s Enforcement Policy
July 25, 2016
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Senior Enforcement Specialist
Starting next month, the NRC’s tools for enforcing our regulations will get a boost through increased fines, referred to as “civil penalties” in the NRC’s regulations and policies. The agency’s enforcement staff is working these changes into the process for assigning penalties when a person or company breaks our rules.
The NRC has always had the authority, under the Atomic Energy Act, to levy fines. We just issued an interim final rule that increases the maximum civil monetary penalty for violations of the Act to $280,469 per violation, per day. That’s double the previous maximum fine.
This change stems from the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which helps keep fines high enough to deter violations. The law required federal agencies to make an initial “catch-up” adjustment by July 1, 2016, effective by August 1. The NRC and other agencies must also make annual adjustments for inflation beginning in 2017.
The NRC is making changes to its Enforcement Policy to keep the policy’s dollar amounts in line with the new maximum fine. For instance, we’re doubling the base civil penalty that applies to nuclear plants and other large licensees for the most severe violations.
We’re also increasing the policy’s lesser penalties for other licensee types, such as material users, to maintain the proportional relationship between penalties. An exception to these changes involves fines for the loss, abandonment, or improper transfer or disposal of regulated material. The NRC can adjust these fines relative to the estimated or actual cost of authorized disposal.
You can find more information on these changes through a set of Questions and Answers we’ve posted on the Office of Enforcement’s section of the NRC website.