Reactor Oversight Process (ROP)
Regulatory Framework - The regulatory framework for reactor oversight consists of three key strategic performance areas: reactor safety, radiation safety, and safeguards. Within each strategic performance area are cornerstones that reflect the essential safety aspects of facility operation. These seven cornerstones include: initiating events, mitigating systems, barrier integrity, emergency preparedness, public radiation safety, occupational radiation safety, and physical protection. Satisfactory licensee performance in the cornerstones provides reasonable assurance of safe facility operation and that the NRC’s safety mission is being accomplished. Each cornerstone contains inspection procedures and performance indicators to ensure that their objectives are being met. For more detail, and listings of the inspection procedures and performance indicators within each cornerstone, please refer to Inspection Procedures & Performance Indicators by ROP Cornerstone. Additional background information can be found on the Detailed ROP Description page. The Office of Public Affairs has published a plain language description of the ROP in NUREG-1649. The ROP-related program and policy documents are also conveniently summarized by subject area on the ROP Program Documents page.
Inputs to the Assessment Process - The NRC evaluates plant performance by analyzing two distinct inputs: inspection findings resulting from NRC's inspection program and performance indicators (PIs) reported by the licensee (Inspection Findings + Performance Indicators = Plant Assessment). Both PIs and inspection findings are evaluated and given a color designation based on their safety significance. Green inspection findings indicate a deficiency in licensee performance that has very low risk significance and therefore has little or no impact on safety. Green PIs represent acceptable performance in which cornerstone objectives are fully met and likewise have little or no impact on safety. Both Green inspection findings and PIs allow for licensee initiatives to correct performance issues before increased regulatory involvement is warranted. White, Yellow, or Red inspection findings or PIs each, respectively, represent a greater degree of safety significance and therefore trigger increased regulatory attention.
NRC Inspection Findings for each plant are documented in inspection reports in accordance with IMC 0612 and summarized in Plant Issues Matrices (PIMs). Inspection findings are evaluated using the significance determination process (SDP) in accordance with IMC 0609 . The latest PIMs and inspection reports are posted on the plant web along with the PIs about five weeks after the end of each quarter. The inspection findings/PIMs are also updated on the web as soon as practical to reflect any final significance determinations that result in a risk significance that is more than very low significance (i.e., greater than green). Inspection findings that cut across cornerstones, such as corrective action program and PI verification findings, are listed in the PIMs as miscellaneous findings. Links are provided from individual PIM entries to the detailed information in NRC inspection reports. The technical basis for the inspection program and SDP can be found in IMC 0308, Att 2 and IMC 0308, Att 3 respectively.
Performance Indicators are reported to the NRC by licensees on a quarterly basis after the end of each quarter in accordance with IMC 0608 and the latest PI reporting guidance. NEI 99-02, Rev 7 (pdf), "Regulatory Assessment Performance Indicator Guideline." The approved FAQs should be used in conjunction with NEI 99-02 Rev 7 when determining the current guidance for PI collection and reporting.
For more detailed inspection and performance indicator program guidance, please refer to the ROP Program Documents.
NRC Response to Plant Performance - The NRC assesses plant performance continuously, and communicates its assessment of plant performance in letters to licensees, typically semi-annually. The assessment letters also contain a proposed inspection plan for the next 15 months of operation. The assessment letters are available on the plant performance summary page for each plant, and are posted on this web site as they become available. More detailed information on the NRC's assessment process is available in IMC 0305, "Operating Reactor Assessment Program." The technical basis for the assessment program can be found in IMC 0308, Att 4.
The NRC determines its regulatory response in accordance with an Action Matrix that provides for a range of actions commensurate with the significance of the PI and inspection results. The Action Matrix is intended to provide consistent, predictable, understandable agency responses to licensee performance. The actions of the matrix are graded such that the NRC becomes more engaged as licensee performance declines. One basic tenet of the ROP was that a licensee’s corrective action program should be relied upon to correct identified issues that do not result in safety performance thresholds being crossed. So for a plant that has all of its PIs and inspection findings characterized as green, the NRC will implement its baseline inspection program, typically consisting of approximately 2700 hours per site. In the implementation of the baseline program, the NRC can make adjustments to the inspection plan based on plant performance trends. For example, if a PI is trending toward the green/white threshold, the NRC can focus inspection effort in that area. In the same manner, licensees track inspection findings and PI results, as well as other identified issues, and take corrective actions as necessary. For plants that do not have all green PIs and inspection findings, the NRC will perform additional inspections beyond the baseline program and initiate other actions commensurate with the safety significance of the issues.
Action Matrix deviations. IMC 0305 recognizes that there may be rare instances in which the regulatory actions dictated by the Action Matrix may not be appropriate. In these instances, the Agency may deviate from the Action Matrix to either increase or decrease Agency action when approved by the Executive Director for Operations. The ROP Action Matrix Deviations provides a comprehensive listing of Action Matrix deviations.
Plant Assessment & Results
Individual Plant Performance Summaries - Performance information (i.e., inspection findings and PIs) is summarized for each plant and sorted by the seven cornerstones of safety. This information can be viewed by selecting the plant name from the left column (organized alphabetically as well as by the region where the plants are located). For each plant, the current Action Matrix designation is displayed along with the performance indicators (PIs) and a summary of NRC inspection findings. Links are also provided to NRC assessment letters, inspection plans, and inspection reports.
Performance Summaries - Based on the latest applicable performance indicators and inspection findings, the current Action Matrix designation for each plant is available in the Action Matrix Summary. The Action Matrix Summary provides a matrix of the five columns with the plants listed within their applicable column. The most significant inspection finding color designations over the previous 4 quarters for all plants is summarized in an Inspection Findings Summary matrix. The most recent quarterly performance indicator color designations for all plants are summarized in a PI Summary matrix. You can drill down into more detailed information from any of these three summary matrices. In addition, the List of Inspection Reports and the List of Security-Related Inspection Reports includes links to all NRC reports documenting ROP-related inspection results and the List of Assessment Reports and Inspection Plans includes links to all NRC performance assessment reports and associated inspection plans for the upcoming year. Finally, the Substantive Cross Cutting Issues Summary lists the plants that have an open substantive cross cutting issue.
Historical Performance - Historical snapshots of plant performance from previous quarters as displayed on the web since the inception of the ROP are also available on the Historical Performance from Previous Quarters page. These include pdf files of the individual plant performance summaries, inspection findings, and performance indicators as well as the comprehensive summaries of the action matrix designation, inspection findings, and performance indicators for all plants.
Program Evaluations and Stakeholder Feedback - The NRC performs an annual self-assessment in accordance with IMC 0307, “Reactor Oversight Process Self-Assessment Program.” In addition to the ROP self-assessment program, several independent evaluations have been performed since the inception of the ROP to analyze its effectiveness and recommend improvements. The staff publishes a survey in a Federal Register notice each year to obtain external stakeholder input regarding ROP effectiveness, and internal surveys are conducted on a biennial basis to solicit and analyze stakeholder feedback from NRC staff. Greater detail of these evaluations and their results are available on the Program Evaluations and Stakeholder Feedback page.
Industry Trends - The NRC's program to monitor trends in industry performance to confirm that the safety of operating power plants is being maintained on the Industry Trends Web Page.