Safety Culture Policy Statement

The Safety Culture Policy Statement (76 FR 34773; June 14, 2011) sets forth the Commission's expectation that individuals and organizations establish and maintain a positive safety culture commensurate with the safety and security significance of their activities and the nature and complexity of their organizations and functions.

The Safety Culture Policy Statement applies to all licensees, certificate holders, permit holders, authorization holders, holders of quality assurance program approvals, vendors and suppliers of safety-related components, and applicants for a license, certificate, permit, authorization, or quality assurance program approval, subject to NRC authority.

On this page:

This page includes links to files in non-HTML format. See Plugins, Viewers, and Other Tools for more information.


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has long recognized the importance of a positive nuclear safety culture. Some of the key milestones in the history of safety culture policy at the NRC are listed below:

Year Key Milestone
1989 In response to an incident at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant, the NRC issued a "Policy Statement on the Conduct of Nuclear Power Plant Operations," (54 FR 3424; January 24, 1989).
1996 Following an incident at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station, in which workers were retaliated against for whistleblowing, the Commission issued a policy statement, "Freedom of Employees in the Nuclear Industry to Raise Safety Concerns without Fear of Retaliation," (61 FR 24336; May 14, 1996).
2002–2006 Lessons learned from the degradation of the reactor pressure vessel head at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station led the NRC to revise the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) to strengthen the agency's ability to detect potential safety culture weaknesses during inspections and performance assessments, as described in SECY-06-0122. Regulatory Issue Summary 2006-13, "Information on the Changes Made to the Reactor Oversight Process To More Fully Address Safety Culture," provides information to nuclear power reactor licensees on the revised ROP.
2008–2011 At the direction of the Commission (SRM-COMGBJ-08-0001), the NRC staff began an effort in 2008 to expand the Commission's safety culture policy to address the unique aspects of security and ensure applicability to all licensees and certificate holders.  The NRC engaged in a collaborative effort with stakeholders, including Agreement States, to develop a definition of nuclear safety culture and a list of traits that describe a positive safety culture.  The Final Safety Culture Policy Statement (76 FR 34773; June 14, 2011) was approved by the Commission on March 7, 2011, and became effective upon publication in the Federal Register.

To top of page

Development of the Safety Culture Policy Statement

The following is a list of NRC documents relevant to the development of the Safety Culture Policy Statement (SCPS), in chronological order from 2008 to 2012.

  • SRM-COMGBJ-08-0001: 2008 Commission memo directing NRC staff to explore expanding safety culture policy.
  • SECY-09-0075: NRC staff response to 2008 Commission memo with recommendations for expanding safety culture policy.
  • SRM-SECY-09-0075: 2009 Commission memo providing additional guidance on development of SCPS.
  • 74 FR 575252: Draft SCPS published in Federal Register for comment in November 2009.
  • 75 FR 57081: Revised draft SCPS published in Federal Register for comment in September 2010.
  • SECY-11-0005: NRC staff paper with proposed SCPS for Commission approval.
  • SRM-SECY-11-0005: 2011 Commission memo directing NRC staff to continue to engage with all stakeholders to communicate the contents of the SCPS, educate stakeholders, and ensure they have the necessary support to effectively employ the SCPS as they deem appropriate.
  • 76 FR 34773: Final SCPS published in Federal Register in June 2011.
  • SECY-12-0008: NRC staff paper outlining implementation plan for the SCPS.
  • Implementation Plan update:  June 2015 NRC staff update to implementation plan for the SCPS – June 2015

To top of page

Definition of Nuclear Safety Culture

The NRC defines nuclear safety culture as the core values and behaviors resulting from a collective commitment by leaders and individuals to emphasize safety over competing goals to ensure protection of people and the environment.

To top of page

Traits of a Positive Safety Culture

The Safety Culture Policy Statement includes a list of nine traits further defining a positive safety culture.  These traits describe patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that emphasize safety, particularly in goal conflict situations , such as when safety goals conflict with production, schedule or cost goals . The traits listed below are not all-inclusive.  Some organizations may find that one or more of the traits are particularly relevant to their activities.  There may also be traits not included in the Safety Culture Policy Statement that are important in a positive safety culture.

Leadership Safety Values and Actions Problem Identification and Resolution Personal Accountability
Leaders demonstrate a commitment to safety in their decisions and behaviors. Issues potentially impacting safety are promptly identified, fully evaluated, and promptly addressed and corrected commensurate with their significance. All individuals take personal responsibility for safety.
Work Processes Continuous Learning Environment for Raising Concerns
The process of planning and controlling work activities is implemented so that safety is maintained. Opportunities to learn about ways to ensure safety are sought out and implemented. A safety conscious work environment is maintained where personnel feel free to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation, intimidation, harassment or discrimination.
Effective Safety Communications Respectful Work Environment Questioning Attitude
Communications maintain a focus on safety. Trust and respect permeate the organization. Individuals avoid complacency and continually challenge existing conditions and activities in order to identify discrepancies that might result in error or inappropriate action.

It is the Commission's expectation that all individuals and organizations, performing or overseeing regulated activities involving nuclear materials, should take the necessary steps to promote a positive safety culture by fostering these traits as they apply to their organizational environments. The Commission recognizes the diversity of these organizations and acknowledges that some organizations have already spent significant time and resources in the development of a positive safety culture. The Commission will take this into consideration as the regulated community addresses the Statement of Policy.

To top of page