Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NAS Safety Culture Lessons Learned from Fukushima—Presentation to NRC

We reviewed the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Fukushima Lessons Learned report on July 30, 2014.  As you recall, we were underwhelmed by the recommendations related to nuclear safety culture (SC).  Basically, the report said the NRC should maintain a strong SC at the facilities it regulates and maintain the agency’s independence.  In addition, the NRC and industry should increase the transparency of their efforts to assess and improve SC.

Two of the report’s authors presented the NAS findings to the NRC on July 31, 2014 as part of a panel of external stakeholders presenting Fukushima lessons learned.  This post, based on the meeting transcript*, reviews the SC-related comments at that meeting.  The NAS presenter repeated the report’s SC recommendations then added some comments about the differences between Japanese and American culture. (pp. 18-19)  He also noted that the SC chapter in the report exhibits a range of views of SC held by different members of the 21-person NAS committee. (p. 24)

The NAS presentation was one of six made by the external panel.  A five-member NRC staff panel reported separately on the agency’s Fukushima-related investigations and activities.  Only the NAS presentation mentioned SC; the other presentations focused on plant hardware, off-site equipment, and state and foreign regulatory activities.

Our Perspective

Although this was a busy meeting with a tight schedule, SC did warrant comments from the Commissioners:

Commissioner Magwood said “. . . I also agree with many of the points the Committee raised about safety culture. I think that the cultural and training issues may actually be more important than some of the hardware issues that we spend a lot of time talking about.  And that is something that has not got enough emphasis.” (p. 57)

Commissioner Svinicki said “I liked the simple statement that was made of nuclear safety culture is a big issue.”  She also appreciated that the committee had a “vibrant” discussion on SC. (pp. 73-74)

Bottom line: Given the number of presentations SC did not get short shrift from the Commission. The Commissioners acknowledged SC’s importance but there was no real discussion of the topic.



*  NRC, “Briefing on the Status of Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident,” meeting transcript (July 31, 2014).  ADAMS ML14217A208.

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