February 25, 2020

February 24, 2020

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Nuclear Regulatory Commission Documents Criteria for Changes to ROP Requiring Commission Approval

On May 12, 2017, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission) approved criteria proposed by the NRC staff in October 2016 relating to changes to the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP).

As approved by the Commission, COMSECY-16-0022 memorializes criteria that the NRC staff should use when determining whether Commission approval should be sought for certain types of changes to the ROP.

The Commission also approved criteria that NRC staff should apply when making changes to the ROP that do not require approval prior to implementation but still require Commission notification.

ROP changes that require prior Commission approval are the following:

  1. Changes to fundamental elements of the ROP framework—e.g., cornerstones, cross-cutting areas, assessment inputs

  2. Addition, deletion, or significant modification to oversight processes—e.g., cross-cutting issues process, significance determination process (SDP)

  3. Changes to ROP thresholds, including but not limited to SDP thresholds and performance indicator (PI) thresholds

  4. Changes to the number of inputs needed to make column changes in the Action Matrix

  5. Addition, deletion, or significant revision of PIs

  6. Specific ROP-related safety culture activities beyond communication and education

  7. Initiation of any pilot projects involving the items above

  8. Items specifically identified by the Commission

ROP changes that require only Commission notification (but not approval) are the following:

  1. Significant changes to the implementation of existing ROP programs—e.g., baseline and supplemental inspection procedures, implementation of the assessment program

  2. Changes to definitions affecting the Action Matrix other than threshold changes

  3. Addition, deletion, or significant revision of baseline inspections

  4. Initiation and completion of Temporary Instructions

These lists will now be incorporated into Management Directive 8.13, “Reactor Oversight Process.” Criterion 7 (initiation of any pilot projects) was added by the Commission in response to a comment from Commissioner Jeff Baran. NRC staff noted that Criterion 8 (items specifically identified by the Commission) was added to capture Commission precedent regarding the Safety Culture Policy Statement issued in 2011. In the Safety Culture Policy Statement, the Commission expressly stated that because the Safety Culture Policy Statement was not a regulation or requirement, “staff activities beyond communication and education should not be pursued without further specific Commission approval.”

These memorialized criteria hopefully will result in better consistency for more material changes to the ROP.

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About this Author

Thomas Poindexter, Morgan Lewis Law Firm, Nuclear Energy Attorney

Thomas C. Poindexter represents nuclear energy clients in licensing, regulatory, and adjudicatory matters before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the US Department of Energy (DOE). Trained as a nuclear engineer, he has served on several nuclear oversight committees for US utilities with nuclear power facilities, and currently assists nuclear power plants and material licensees in recovering from regulatory, investigation, and enforcement problems. Tom also focuses on emergent issue response, facility performance situations, and regulatory strategic planning....

Grant Eskelsen, Morgan Lewis, Litigation lawyer

Grant W. Eskelsen handles a broad range of matters for the nuclear industry. He routinely counsels clients on compliance with nuclear-export related matters, including 10 CFR Part 810 and 10 CFR Part 110. Grant holds a top-secret security clearance and supports investigations and litigation involving classified information. He also provides due diligence support for energy transactions and supports clients in claims against the government for its ongoing failure to accept spent fuel from utilities. Grant also assists clients in internal investigations and litigation related to government contracting.