NRC Inspectors: Free to Inspect

Diane Screnci
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region I

We often talk about having NRC Resident Inspectors at each commercial nuclear plant acting as the eyes and ears of the agency on site. It’s important to understand how they go about their business.

Paul Cataldo
Paul Cataldo

On a daily basis, resident inspectors are attending meetings, walking down equipment, monitoring major work activities, reviewing paperwork, and talking to control room operators and plant workers. When an event occurs at a plant, the resident inspectors are in the control room, watching how operators and the plant respond. They provide first-hand knowledge of what’s going on at a plant to regional management on an on-going basis. Inspectors often work business hours, but they’re required to work evenings, weekends and overnight hours, too.

NRC inspectors, including region-based specialists, have “unfettered access,” so they can go anywhere and watch any activity they choose. NRC regulations specify that NRC inspectors must have immediate unfettered access, although inspectors must comply with applicable access control measures for security, radiological protection and personal safety. That means if an inspector wants to enter a radiologically controlled area, he or she is allowed to, but first must follow the radiation protection requirements for the area.

“My job is to ensure the company is in compliance with our regulations and their operating license, which provides reasonable assurance that the plant is safe. One approach I use is the “trust but verify” method,” says Paul Cataldo, the NRC Senior Resident Inspector at Seabook Station in New Hampshire. “In essence, having access to any document, equipment or personnel on-site, without asking permission or the licensee having prior knowledge of a request, gives us confidence regarding the integrity of the information we use during our inspections.”

Plant workers are also prohibited from announcing that an NRC inspector is at the plant or in a particular area. It’s a violation of NRC requirements and over the years we have cited plants when workers tipped off their co-workers that inspectors were on-site.

We rely on our ability to perform announced and unannounced inspections to independently evaluate plant performance. Without unfettered access, our ability to carry out our mission could be impacted.

Author: Moderator

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

6 thoughts on “NRC Inspectors: Free to Inspect”

  1. I personally think that not telling workers that NRC inspector is at the plant is a great experience! Why? When the plant workers knows that inspectors are there, they begin to act as they never did before. They are fully equipped as never before, but when there are no inspectors they use not to stick to the safety standards.

  2. Each plant has procedures for using a camera on site. Our inspectors follow those procedures.

    Diane Screnci

  3. What are the photography and videography guidelines, requirements, and restrictions for nuclear regulatory inspectors?

  4. It’s better to have a surprise inspection to comply by operator of Nuclear Power Plant. Also it helps to eliminate the possible threat to residential area.

  5. Do you know who knows really about any nuclear plant’s real day-to-day health (more than the resident inspectors!!!) the site insurance “underwriters” know the real story of a nuke! After all these are the folks who are going to write checks to public if something blows Up!n(heh-heh!)

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