United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Enforcement Discretion by NRC Concerning Violations that are Self-Identifying

HPPOS-244 PDR-9111220090

See the letter from M. R. Knapp to C. D. Frizzle (President, Maine Atomic Power Company) dated October 24, 1990. The exercise of enforcement discretion by NRC requires that the problems be both licensee-identified and corrected in a timely manner. If timely action is not taken, the exercise of enforcement discretion is not appropriate.

On July 13, 1990, I sent you a letter and Notice of Violation for violations of NRC requirements associated with an event at the Maine Yankee facility involving a lack of adequate radiological control of work activities at your facility. The violations and the associated event, which included elevated dose rates and unplanned radiation exposure, had been discussed during an enforcement conference on June 27, 1990.

At the enforcement conference, you contended that the NRC should exercise enforcement discretion and not issue a Notice of Violation because, in part, the violations were licensee-identified. In my July 13, 1990 letter transmitting the notice, I stated that the exercise of enforcement discretion in this case was not appropriate since “the violations were clearly self-identifying in that the workers, who had received the unplanned, unmonitored radiation exposures, personally informed radiological controls personnel that they were receiving radiation exposure that was not being properly monitored by their dosimetry.”

While the NRC continues to maintain that the exercise of enforcement discretion was not appropriate in this case, the explanation provided in my July 13, 1990 letter was incorrect. Contrary to this letter, the NRC does consider the problems to be licensee-identified. The NRC wishes to encourage licensee identification and correction of problems to the maximum extent possible, whether through formal audit and oversight programs or other forms of identification, including identification of problems which may be considered “self-identifying”.

In this case, the problems were identified by Maine Yankee through your representatives who were contractor personnel. Since they notified radiological controls personnel of their concerns about higher that expected radiation doses in their work area, the violations were licensee-identified.

With regard to the use of enforcement discretion by the NRC, the exercise of such discretion requires that the problems be both licensee-identified and corrected in a timely way. In this case, timely action was not taken by the radiological controls personnel, and it was not until later that the elevated dose rates and unplanned radiation exposures were discovered. Therefore, on this basis, the exercise of enforcement discretion is not appropriate. We do note that you later took prompt and vigorous corrective actions (as recognized in my July 13, 1990 letter) following your confirmation of the unplanned, unmonitored radiation exposures of the workers.

I trust that the above discussion clearly describes the NRC position on licensee-identified violations and our reasons for not exercising enforcement discretion in this case. I regret any difficulties which my July 13, 1990 letter may have caused Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company.

Regulatory references: None

Subject codes: 12.7

Applicability: All

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012