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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Tuesday, January 26, 1999)
NRC SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON PROPOSED CHANGES TO ITS
REACTOR INSPECTION AND OVERSIGHT PROGRAM
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on major proposed changes aimed at improving the inspection and assessment processes for overseeing the commercial nuclear power industry.
The NRC staff has developed such an improvement plan following a series of workshops and public meetings held around the country during the past year. The Systematic Assessment of Licensee Performance, or SALP program, used by NRC since 1980, was suspended last year while a new assessment process was being designed.
Under the proposed system, the NRC technical staff would utilize various sources of information relevant to licensee safety performance, make objective conclusions regarding their significance, take actions based on those conclusions in a predictable manner, and effectively communicate these results to its licensees and to the public.
The new program reflects improvements in the safety, reliability and performance of the nuclear power industry over the past 20 years, as well as the agency's need to regulate the industry effectively with a smaller staff and budget. The NRC therefore intends to measure nuclear power plant performance using a combination of objective indicators, as well as findings from an inspection program that will be refocused on plant activities most important to safety and minimizing of risk. The new program will include a core, or baseline, of inspections common to all nuclear plants. Inspections that go beyond the baseline will be performed at plants when performance drops below a specified threshold. Additional inspections may be done in response to a specific event or problem at a plant.
If approved by the Commission in March, NRC plans to begin a transition to the new system in June with a six-month pilot program at eight plant sites throughout the nation. By next January, the new process could be in place at all plants.
Further details of the proposed changes are contained in a notice published in the January 22 edition of the Federal Register. Interested persons are invited to submit written comments by February 22, to: Chief, Rules and Directives Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: T-6 D59, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. Hand deliver comments to: 11545 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, between 7:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. on Federal workdays.
A copy of SECY-99-007, and other documents that describe the proposed changes to NRC's reactor assessment and oversight process, are available at the NRC's homepage at: http://www.nrc.gov/OPA/oversght.htm.