Friday, April 25, 2014

Safety Culture at the NRC Regulatory Information Conference

NRC Public Meeting
The NRC held their annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) March 11-13, 2014.  It included a session on safety culture (SC), summarized below.*

NRC Presentation

The NRC presentation reviewed their education and outreach activities on the SC Policy Statement (SCPS) and their participation in IAEA meetings to develop an implementation strategy for the IAEA Nuclear Safety Action Plan. 

The only new item was Safety Culture Trait Talk, an educational brochure.  Each brochure covers one of the nine SC traits in the SCPS, describing why the trait is important and providing examples of associated behaviors and attitudes, and an illustrative scenario. 

It appears only one brochure, Leadership Safety Values and Actions, is currently available.**  A quick read suggests the brochure content is pretty good.  The “Why is this trait important?” content was derived from an extensive review of SC-related social science literature, which we liked a lot and posted about Feb. 10, 2013.  The “What does this trait look like?” section comes from the SC Common Language initiative, which we have reviewed multiple times, most recently on April 6, 2014.  The illustrative scenario is new content developed for the brochure and provides a believable story of how normalization of deviance can creep into an organization under the skirt of an employee bonus program based on plant production.

Licensee Presentations

There were three licensee presentations, all from entities that the NRC has taken to the woodshed over SC deficiencies.  Presenting at the RIC may be part of their penance but it’s interesting to see what folks who are under the gun to change their SC have to say.

Chicago Bridge & Iron, which is involved in U.S. nuclear units currently under construction, got in trouble for creating a chilled work environment at one of its facilities.  The fixes focus on their Safety Conscious Work Environment and Corrective Action Program.   Detailed activities come from the familiar menu: policy updates, a new VP role, training, oversight, monitoring, etc.  Rapping CB&I’s knuckles certainly creates an example for other companies trying to cash in on the “Nuclear Renaissance” in the U.S.  Whatever CB&I does, they are motivated to make it work because there is probably a lot of money at stake.  The associated NRC Confirmatory Order*** summarizes the history of the precipitating incident and CB&I’s required corrective actions.

Browns Ferry has had SC-related problems for a long time and has been taken to task by both NRC and INPO.  The presentation includes one list of prior plant actions that DIDN’T work while a different list displays current actions that are supposedly working.  Another slide shows improvement in SC metrics based on survey data—regular readers know how we feel about SC surveys.  The most promising initiative they are undertaking is to align with the rest of the TVA fleet on NEI 09-07 “Fostering a Strong Nuclear Safety Culture.”  Click on the Browns Ferry label to see our posts that mention the plant.

Fort Calhoun’s problems started with the 2011 Missouri River floods and just got worse, moving them further down the ROP Action Matrix and forcing them to (among many other things) complete an independent SC assessment.  They took the familiar steps, creating policies, changing out leadership, conducting training, etc.  They also instituted SC “pulse” surveys and use the data to populate their SC performance indicators.  Probably the most important action plant owner OPPD took was to hire Exelon to manage the plant.  Fort Calhoun’s SC-related NRC Confirmatory Action Letter was closed in March 2013 so they are out of the penalty box.

Bottom line: The session presentations are worth a look.

RIC Session T11: Safety Culture Journeys: Lessons Learned from Culture Change Efforts (Mar. 11, 2014).  Retrieved April 25, 2014.  Slides for all the presentations are available from this page.

**  “Leadership Safety Values and Actions,” NRC Safety Culture Trait Talk, no. 1 (Mar. 2014).  ADAMS ML14051A543.  Retrieved April 25, 2014.

***  NRC Confirmatory Order EA-12-189 re: Chicago Bridge and Iron (Sept. 16, 2013).  ADAMS ML13233A432.  Retrieved April 25, 2014.

1 comment:

  1. Culture has its consequences. Incompetence, lack of integrity, noncompliance, and lack of transparency have ripple effects for the perpetrators and others. VW example at


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