Safety Culture and Nuclear Reactors

Beginning in 1989, the NRC published two policy statements about safety culture at nuclear power plants. One described the Commission's expectations for the conduct of operations in control rooms; the second established the Commission's expectation for maintaining a safety-conscious work environment (SCWE), in which workers are able to raise nuclear safety concerns without fear of retaliation.

Following the discovery of degradation of the reactor pressure vessel head at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in 2002, the NRC took additional steps within the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) to strengthen the agency's ability to detect potential safety culture weaknesses during inspections and performance assessments. Since 2006, the NRC's oversight of safety culture for power reactors through the ROP has included guidance and procedures for inspecting and assessing aspects of licensees' safety culture.

In 2008, the NRC developed several additional changes to the guidance on oversight of safety culture in the ROP as a result of lessons learned from the supplemental inspection conducted at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

The staff continues to enhance ROP guidance documents, as needed, based on lessons learned and stakeholder feedback.

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Safety Culture Common Language

Before work began on the 2011 Safety Culture Policy Statement, the nuclear power industry approached the NRC about starting an effort to develop a shared set of terms to describe safety culture. With insights gained during the development of the Safety Culture Policy Statement, the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) hosted a series of public workshops beginning in December 2011 to discuss the idea of a safety culture common language. The intent of this initiative, as requested by the industry, was to align terminology between the NRC's inspection and assessment processes within the ROP and the industry's assessment process. This initiative was within the Commission-directed framework for enhancing the ROP treatment of crosscutting areas to more fully address safety culture.

NUREG-2165, "Safety Culture Common Language," documents the outcomes of the public workshops to develop a common language to describe safety culture in the nuclear industry. These workshops, held in December 2011, April 2012, November 2012, and January 2013, included panelists from the NRC, the nuclear power industry, and the public. NUREG-2165 outlines a suggested common language for classifying and grouping traits and attributes of a healthy nuclear safety culture.

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Safety Culture and New Reactors

The safety culture approach developed for construction of new reactors is consistent with the ROP methodology, including the use of safety culture components and cross-cutting issues. This approach provides the NRC with the means to communicate with licensees about the impact of findings about the safety culture at a construction site.

IMC 0613, "Documenting 10 CFR Part 52 Construction Inspections," and IMC 2505, "Periodic Assessment of Construction Inspection Program Results," provide guidance to assess the safety culture of a construction site. IMC 2505 also includes references to the supplemental inspection procedures, which are used when there is a decline in safety performance at a construction site. These procedures provide NRC inspectors with guidance on how to assess the safety culture at a construction site with escalating levels of efforts commensurate with the significance of a site's performance decline. The supplemental inspection procedures also provide NRC inspectors with the tools to communicate safety culture issues to stakeholders.