United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Inspector Access to Facilities

HPPOS-164 PDR-9111220176

See the memorandum from Dudley Thompson to C. M. Upright and C. E. Norelius dated May 13, 1980.

It is an OELD opinion that nonresident inspectors could be required to have an escort for access to vital, radiation, and contamination areas. In other areas, inspectors must be given immediate unescorted access. 10 CFR 14 covers claims for damages by any NRC employee while acting with the scope of his office or employment.

In an enclosed letter from Wisconsin Electric Power Company dated October 22, 1979, it is stated: "Recently a Region III inspector questioned the Point Beach Nuclear Plant procedures related to the requirements of 10 CFR 50.70 (b) (3). This section specifies: (3) The licensee or construction permit holder shall afford any NRC resident inspector assigned to that site, or other NRC inspectors identified by the Regional Director as likely to inspect the facility, immediate unfettered access, equivalent to access provided regular plant employees, following proper identification and compliance with applicable access control measures for security, radiological protection, and personal safety."

"Wisconsin Electric intends to meet the requirements of the regulation by providing access to authorized inspectors to all areas of the plant where plant or inspector safety are not compromised and to allow inspector access to any plant employees for discussions related to carrying out the inspector's duties. The new regulation differs from the proposed regulation in that it demands "unfettered" access and deletes the sentence which provided for establishing the purpose and scope of the inspection so that planning can be done to facilitate an efficient inspection. No public comment was requested with respect to this matter. We are, of course, determined to cooperate with your inspection program consistent with assuring plant safety and the safety of all visitor to the plant, including NRC inspectors. Accordingly, we plan to implement this regulation by furnishing an escort for your inspectors following an entrance meeting."

"We believe that the NRC does not indemnify the utility or the public against any damage which might involve the actions of the inspector; therefore, we believe it necessary to provide an escort unless the inspector is so familiar with the plant, and the plant personnel with the inspector, that we determine such escort requirements can be waived. If unannounced inspections take place outside normal working hours, it may be necessary to call in an escort if the inspector desires access to plant areas outside the normal work stations of on-duty personnel. We do not believe that the minor delay which might be involved under such circumstances is in conflict with the regulations in view of the safety and security considerations already discussed. If the inspection is announced in advance, we would plan to have an escort available without delay."

Because of concerns by NRC Region III and other regional offices, OELD has provided guidance on 10 CFR 50.70, specifically those sections dealing with "immediate unfettered access" and "liability for damages." 10 CFR 50.70 (b) (3) requires a licensee or construction permit holder to afford an NRC inspector "immediate unfettered access, equivalent to access provided regular plant employees" (emphasis supplied). If the licensee requires a training program of reasonable duration, or the presence of an escort during a reasonable site familiarization phase for regular plant employees, the inspector would be required by the current regulation to have such training and escort. It seems clear that once an inspector is familiar with a site, upon properly identifying himself at the gate, he should be allowed immediate unescorted access to the facility.

However, it is also clear that a nonresident inspector could be required to have an escort to gain access to vital areas, radiation areas, or contaminated areas. But assuming an inspector does not intend to enter the prohibited areas without an escort, any delay caused by the licensee at the gate, in excess of that borne by regular employees, is a violation of Commission regulations.

As far as inspector liability is concerned, Part 14 of the Commission's regulations provides detailed procedures for filing a claim for any damages "caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the NRC while acting within the scope of his office or employment" (10 CFR 14.1).

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 14.1, 10 CFR 50.70

Subject codes: 1.2, 12.18

Applicability: All

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, June 15, 2015