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.

Principles of Good Regulation: Clarity

Regulations should be coherent, logical, and practical. There should be a clear nexus between regulations and agency goals and objectives whether explicitly or implicitly stated. Agency positions should be readily understood and easily applied.

Maureen Conley
Public Affairs Officer

graphic-pogr_clarityThe NRC has a double challenge when it comes to clarity. We are a regulatory agency that derives its authority from a series of laws passed by Congress and we regulate a highly technical industry with many of our experts holding advanced technical degrees.

For those reasons, it can sometimes be challenging to explain what we do and why we do it.

Over the years, the agency has employed a variety of different ways to communicate with clarity. This blog and all our social media platforms are one avenue. Producing less technical executive summaries for otherwise quite complex documents is another way.

We often work with technical experts to help prepare them for public meetings and to ensure their presentations are “user friendly” for the audience expected to attend. The agency’s training center offers many courses to help technical experts present their complex work clearly in a way that is more accessible for both technical and non-technical audiences.

The agency’s website also provides a wealth of information to meet the needs of both technical audiences and the general public. Even our student corner section helps clarify the agency’s mission and activities.

The NRC’s work may involve an abundance of acronyms and technical jargon, but we are always striving to convey what we do and why we do it in the clearest way possible.

This post is the fourth of five that will explore each of the five principles separately. For the history of the Principles of Good Regulation, read this post.