Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NRC Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) - Safety Culture (cont.)

Last week we previewed the safety culture (SC) content of the then-upcoming NRC RIC.  The Idaho National Lab speaker's slides were not available at that time but they are now and his presentation is reviewed below.  The focus is on the Advanced Test Reactor Programs but I think it's fair to infer that the thinking is representative of a wider swath of the DOE complex.

The presentation opens with five lengthy quotes from Admiral Rickover's November 1983 assessment of GPU and its competence to operate TMI-1.  The apparent intent is to illustrate that the principles for safe nuclear operations have been known (or at least available) for a long time.  Coincidentally, we posted on the Rickover assessment two months ago, and focused on one of the same quotes.  If you aren't acquainted with Rickover's seven principles, you really should read the introduction to the assessment, which is available from the Dickinson College library.

The presentation describes components of the new DOE Cross Cutting Performance Areas for category 1, 2 and 3 nuclear facilities:  Evaluating the effectiveness of operations, maintenance, engineering and training programs; developing, monitoring and evaluating SC; and evaluating issue identification and resolution activities, including the significance determination process and the evaluation and resolution process for high significance issues.

The presentation concluded with a list of areas being emphasized at the Idaho lab: What is the right (as opposed to allowable) thing to do, educating leaders, communications, and decision making that reflects a learning organization and doesn't result in safety drift.

The presentation hit most of the right notes, a major exception being no mention of management or contractor financial incentive plans.  However, the unmistakable tone is there is really nothing new required of the lab, just a refinement of past and current practices.  Perhaps that's true for them but I have limited confidence in DOE entities' ability to self-evaluate.  We're pretty sure SC issues exist or have existed at other DOE facilities, especially the Vit Plant (click the label in the top right-hand column to pull up our posts).

1 comment:

  1. I do wish that I'd been able to observe the reception to this INL presentation.

    I'd agree with you that the state of the nuclear safety management challenge in the DOE Office of Science with its test reactors is considerably different from either the Cleanup Program (e.g. Hanford Tank Waste) or the Nuclear Weapons Program (e.g. at Pantex Site).

    Different in the sense that test reactors are functionally similar to half of an NPP and inherently less threatening. There is also the reality that Scientist tend to take very good care of their hardware, particularly the big one of a kind pieces.

    There are aspects of this presentation that strain the bridging suggesting that NEI-09-07 is a useful template in most DOE nuclear facilities. And I'm not sure where the notion of "DOE Cross-cutting" areas comes from as there is nothing comparable to the ROP that I'm aware of.

    Still its nice to see the Back to the Future riff - if that sent a few of the RIC attendees back to the source that would be to the good.


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