The NRC is piloting a new oversight process for nuclear units under construction that is reminiscent of the old riddle, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”
Obviously, the Reactor Oversight Process, or ROP, has been in effect for years. The NRC staff recently developed a Reactor Oversight Process for construction, known as cROP, designed to inform oversight of the ongoing work at Southern Nuclear Co.’s two new units at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga., and SCE&G’s two new units at V.C. Summer near Columbia, S.C.
The new process uses numerous features of the original ROP, including the inspection program, assessment process and enforcement policy. But the construction ROP has its own Action Matrix and employs a construction significance determination process to assess the importance of inspection findings.
Senior officials in the Office of New Reactors, or NRO, held public meetings near both sites this month to explain the program and gather public comments on possible revisions to improve it. Another public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 6 at NRC headquarters to evaluate the pilot, with the goal to report to the Commission by the end of April.
The inspection program is a joint effort of Region II and NRO. Three construction resident inspectors are at each site, supplemented by regional specialists in various disciplines ranging from welding to concrete. Inspectors from headquarters monitor and review the performance of suppliers who ship safety-related components to the sites.
The NRC estimates that the agency’s inspectors will perform some 30,000 hours of inspections for each new unit before the process ends. Specifically, the inspection regimen requires the licensees to verify they have met 875 different ITAAC, or Inspections, Tests, Analyses and Acceptance Criteria. This comprehensive oversight program means any unit that is built would be constructed according to all applicable NRC regulations.