Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Safety Culture at the 2015 NRC Regulatory Information Conference

NRC Public Meeting
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held its annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) on March 10-12, 2015.  As usual, safety culture (SC) played a minor supporting role: it was the topic of one technical session out of 37 total.  The SC session focused on assessing and/or measuring SC.  It featured a range of presentations—from NRC, Duke Energy, DOE and a SC consultant—which are summarized below.*


This presentation consisted of one (sic) slide recounting the NRC’s SC outreach program during the past year including the Trait Talk brochures, SC case studies and meetings with other nuclear regulatory bodies.

Duke Energy

The presenter provided a list of internal (CAP, Employee Concerns Program )and external (INPO, NRC) information, and management activities (Nuclear SC Monitoring Panel, Site Leadership team, Corporate Nuclear SC Monitoring Panel, Fleet Nuclear SC Monitoring Panel, Executive Nuclear Safety Council) that are used to assess equipment, processes and people across the Duke fleet.  There was no information on how these activities are integrated to describe plant or fleet SC, or if any SC issues have been identified or corrective actions taken; the slides were basically a laundry list.

Department of Energy (DOE)

The speaker was from DOE’s Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security.  He reviewed the safety mission and goals related to DOE’s Integrated Safety Management program, DOE’s SC focus areas (leadership, employee/worker engagement and organizational learning) and SC-related activities (extent of condition reviews, self‐assessments, sustainment plans, independent assessments and the SC Improvement Panel.) 

The presentation covered the challenges in relating SC to safety management performance (mostly industrial safety metrics) and in implementing cultural changes.  Factors that make SC improvement difficult include production vs. safety goal conflict, fiscal pressures, leadership changes and internal inertia (resistance to change).

This presentation covered the basics of SC, as customized for DOE, but had no supporting details or any mention of the SC issues that have arisen at various DOE facilities, e.g., Hanford, Pantex and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.  We have posted many times on DOE SC; please click on the DOE label to retrieve these posts.

SC Consultant

The presenter was Sonja Haber.  She reviewed the fundamentals of the linkage between culture, behavior and ultimate performance, and the Schein three-level model of culture.

She also covered the major considerations for conducting SC assessments including having a diversity of expertise in assessing culture, using multiple methods of data collection, understanding how cultural complexity impacts performance and considering the interaction of human, organizational and technological factors.

Our Perspective

This was thin gruel compared to the 2014 RIC SC session (which we reviewed April 25, 2014).  Based on the slides, there was not much “there” there at this session.  The speaker who offered the most was Dr. Haber, not a surprise given that she has been involved in SC evaluations at various DOE facilities and testified at a Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board hearing on SC (which we reviewed June 9, 2014).

If a webcast of the SC technical session becomes available, we will review it to see if any useful additional information was presented or arose during the discussion.

*  The SC technical session presentations are available on the NRC website.

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