Monday, March 11, 2013

NRC Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) - Safety Culture Preview

The RIC is this week, March 12-14.  The teaser on the NRC blog says the technical sessions will include safety culture (SC) policies.  Let's look at the program agenda and see what's in store for SC.

There will be 36 technical sessions.  I reviewed all the titles and drilled down into sessions that might make some mention of SC, e.g.,  T4 - Construction Inspection Experience–The First Year and T7 - Human Impacts.  However, I could find no mention of SC in any of the currently available slide presentations.

That left the last technical session on the agenda: TH36 - The NRC’s Safety Culture Policy Statement–Domestic and International Initiatives.  Following is a summary of the available presentations for this session.

The introductory remarks summarize the development of the SC policy statement and its implementation.  There is no news here.

The SC common language presentation reviews the history of this initiative (which we have previously reviewed here and here).  The presentation has one quotable statement: “NRR will work to incorporate language into the ROP guidance documents and inspection procedures, as appropriate.”  Does that sound like back door regulation of SC to you?

A presentation on domestic and international cooperation reviews the relationship between NRC and INPO, NRC and IAEA, and others.  As an example of cooperation, the authors summarize the INPO SC survey data that were collected from operating plants and then analyzed by INPO (and later NRC) to show “statistically significant relationships between safety culture survey results and measures of plant performance.”  We commented on this work when it first appeared in 2010, congratulating INPO for making the effort and agreeing with some of the findings but finally concluding that the analysis was incomplete and potentially misleading.   

An industry presentation by Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. (NFS) describing their SC improvement program is worth a look.  It lists almost two dozen program components, none of which is a trivial undertaking, which suggest how much work is involved in changing an existing SC.  (I have no idea if NFS is actually pursuing the listed activities or how well they're doing.)

All in all, it's probably not worth traveling to Bethesda if you're seeking enlightenment about SC. 

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