Ensuring Nuclear Plant Safety – Nuclear Reactor Oversight Process

MNS-DSC_7561NLEach nuclear unit in the industry must pass a rigorous test. And, every nuclear worker understands they must perform their tasks at a high level to continuously ensure operational safety.

All nuclear workers carry a special responsibility. They must fully comply with station procedures and federal regulations to ensure the health and safety of the public, their co-workers and families are protected. Their dedication and success attest to the outstanding safety record the nuclear industry has achieved over the years.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the nation’s nuclear plants and other industries that manage nuclear materials. The chief inspection tool used to measure a wide range of performance indicators at a nuclear plant is the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP).

Each nuclear site has at least two permanently assigned NRC inspectors who monitor and evaluate plant performance on an ongoing basis. NRC officials also perform an annual assessment of a plant’s performance in the areas of reactor safety, radiation safety and nuclear safeguards.

CNS-DSC_5761Any findings from the NRC’s inspection program and performance indicators reported by the plant’s licensee (owner/operator) go into a detailed analysis that assesses a nuclear plant’s safety level. The NRC issues assessment letters typically on a semi-annual basis, which are publicly available on its website. In conjunction with the assessment letters, the NRC will schedule an “open house” or meeting to communicate the assessment results and respond to questions from the public.

The Action Matrix is the primary tool used by the NRC to communicate performance under the ROP. Currently, all Duke Energy nuclear sites are in the license response column of the Action Matrix, which corresponds to the lowest level of oversight referred to as the “baseline inspection program.” The level of oversight increases as plant performance declines.

The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) is an industry funded oversight organization that assesses plant performance, promotes the sharing of operating experience, and evaluates the effectiveness of operator training. The oversight provided by the NRC and INPO play an important role in promoting a shared focus on nuclear safety throughout the industry. This shared focus on safety allows nuclear energy to continue to play an important role in meeting our nation’s energy needs safely, reliably and carbon-free.