Frequently Asked Questions About the Allegation Program
On this page:
- Can I raise nuclear safety concerns directly to the NRC?
- How do I contact the NRC to report a nuclear safety concern?
- What kinds of issues can the NRC address and what is the process for addressing them?
- What if my concerns are not under the jurisdiction of the NRC?
- If I raise a concern to the NRC, do I have to provide my name?
- What if I don't want my identity released?
- How specific should I be in the concern(s) that I raise to the NRC?
- What if I am being harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for raising a safety concern?
- Can the NRC provide medical advice?
- What if I have a concern about the performance of the NRC in general or NRC employees in particular?
- What if I am concerned about the environment for raising concerns at a particular NRC licensed facility?
- Will the NRC notify my employer of my concerns?
- How will the NRC handle my concern if it involves sensitive security information?
- What if I have additional questions about the NRC allegation process, or if I want to obtain data about the allegations that are received by the NRC?
Can I raise nuclear safety concerns directly to the NRC?
Yes. Workers in the nuclear industry or members of the general public have the option of reporting nuclear safety concerns directly to the NRC. However, the NRC encourages workers to raise concerns to their employers because the employer has the primary responsibility for ensuring safe operations and is in the best position to address concerns directly and promptly. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Introduction and A Worker's Role in Nuclear Safety for additional details.)
How do I contact the NRC to report a nuclear safety concern?
You may contact any NRC employee, including a resident inspector, or call the NRC's toll-free Safety Hotline: 1-800-695-7403. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" How to Report Nuclear Safety Concerns to NRC for additional details.)
What kinds of issues can the NRC address and what is the process for addressing them?
The NRC will address all nuclear safety or regulatory concerns involving NRC regulated facilities and licensed nuclear material. Such concerns include those involving design, construction, operation, maintenance, radiation protection, safeguards, security, emergency preparedness, wrongdoing, harassment/intimidation/retaliation/discrimination for raising safety concerns, a work environment that discourages workers from raising safety concerns, and other matters related to NRC-regulated activities. Allegations are assigned for processing to a specific NRC employee. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Allegation Process for additional details.)
What if my concerns are not under the jurisdiction of the NRC?
The NRC cannot address concerns that are outside of the NRC's regulatory purview. The following is a sample of some of the subject areas that are outside of the NRC's regulatory purview:
- utility rates
- non-radiological industrial and occupational safety issues
- pay issues (not related to raising nuclear safety issues)
- work performance issues (not related to raising nuclear safety issues)
- disposal of non-nuclear waste
- control of exempt quantities of licensed material
- X-ray machines, fluoroscopy, accelerator produced isotopes
- issues regulated by other government agencies, EEOC, DOE
Concerns outside the NRC's jurisdiction will be transferred to the appropriate Federal or State agency along with information on how to contact you. You will be notified of this action and provided with a point of contact at the appropriate agency.
Concerns related to the performance of an Agreement State or an Agreement State licensee must be transferred by the NRC to the Agreement State for resolution since the state has regulatory jurisdiction over these matters. Agreement States are states that have been given the authority by the NRC to regulate the use of radioactive material in the state (except for commercial power operation). If you want to deal directly with Agreement State personnel, the NRC can provide you with a point of contact at the state agency or transfer your concerns to the state. If you do not want your name provided to the Agreement State, the NRC will transfer your concern to the Agreement State without your name and supply you with a copy of the Agreement State's response. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Concerns Outside NRC's Jurisdiction for additional details.)
If I raise a concern to the NRC, do I have to provide my name?
No, an individual raising concerns to the NRC is not required to provide his or her name. The NRC performs the same type of review regardless of whether you provide your name. However, we prefer to have your name, address, and telephone number so that we can contact you to obtain additional information that may be required to properly conduct a review of your concern(s). In addition, providing your name and contact information will allow the NRC to provide you with our findings on how each concern was reviewed and addressed. Many telephones at the NRC display the phone number and/or name of incoming calls and that information may be recorded by the NRC staff taking the call to use should additional contact be necessary to fulfill our mission. The NRC provides identity protection to individuals who report nuclear safety concerns and has provisions for granting confidentiality. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Identity Protection and Confidentiality Agreements for additional details.)
What if I don't want my identity released?
It is NRC policy to protect the identities of individuals who report nuclear safety concerns. If resolution of a concern does not require disclosure of an individual's identity, his or her identify will not normally be disclosed. However, if you publicly disclose that you submitted concerns to the NRC (e.g., discuss your concerns with a news reporter), the NRC may confirm your identity and the concerns you submitted in responding to requests for information concerning NRC's actions to resolve your concerns. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Identity Protection for additional details.)
How specific should I be in the concern(s) that I raise to the NRC?
You should provide as much specific information as possible for each concern you raise. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" How to Report Nuclear Safety Concerns to the NRC for additional details.) The more specific the information, the better the NRC will be able to focus its review effort. Concerns should not to be too general or broad-based, and they should be raised as soon after the event or occurrence as possible. Remember, the older an issue is, the more difficult it becomes to retrieve related documentation or for people familiar with the issue to remember specific circumstances.
What if I am being harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for raising a safety concern?
If you are an employee, contractor, or subcontractor of a facility licensed by the NRC, acts of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination against you for raising NRC-related safety or regulatory concerns are against the law. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Handling Discrimination Against Workers for additional details.) The NRC will investigate some discrimination complaints and, if proven, take appropriate enforcement action against the facility. If NRC determines that evaluation of your discrimination concern is warranted, as an alternative to an investigation of your discrimination concern by the NRC Office of Investigations (OI), you may choose to participate in the NRC's alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program, which offers mediation in the handling of a complaint of discrimination. Mediation is a voluntary process where two parties you and your employer/former employer use an unbiased, neutral individual, or mediator, in an attempt to resolve and settle your complaint of discrimination. If such an agreement is reached, the NRC will close your discrimination complaint upon settlement and will not perform an investigation. If a settlement is not reached with your employer/former employer, the NRC (OI) may initiate an investigation into your complaint of discrimination. As mentioned above, the NRC's ADR program is voluntary, and any participant may end the mediation at any time. Additional information on this program is included in the attached brochure, "NRC's Early ADR Program" and more detailed information on the program can be found on our website at http://www.nrc.gov/what-we-do/regulatory/enforcement/adr.html. However, the NRC does not have the authority to obtain a personal remedy for a person who has been discriminated against. If a personal remedy is desired (e.g., job reinstatement, back pay, payment of legal fees), the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (DOL/OSHA) is the Federal agency that should be contacted. Please note that, while participation in the NRC's ADR program may result in negotiation of the issues which form the basis of your discrimination complaint with your employer/former employer under Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, the timeliness requirements for filing a claim of discrimination with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) (180 days) are in no way altered by the NRC's ADR Program. For this reason, the filing of a discrimination complaint with DOL should be considered at the same time you are considering use of the NRC ADR program. While there is a likelihood that DOL may choose to await the completion of an attempted ADR mediation given the prospect that a mutually agreeable settlement may be reached, timely filing of a discrimination complaint with DOL assures that DOL will review your discrimination claim in the event that ADR is unsuccessful. In order to protect your right to file a discrimination claim with DOL under 29 CFR Part 24, DOL's "Procedures for Handling of Discrimination Complaints Under Federal Employee Protection Statutes," you must file a written complaint with DOL within 180 days of the date of the alleged discriminatory action or the date you received any notice, in writing or otherwise, of an adverse personnel action, whichever occurred first. The NRC's Allegation Coordinators can provide you with addresses and telephone numbers for those offices or you may be able to find them in your telephone book. If either the NRC or DOL investigates your discrimination complaint, your identity and the fact that you filed a complaint will be disclosed to your employer.
Can the NRC provide medical advice?
No, the NRC cannot provide medical advice. If you feel that you have received excessive exposure to radiation and are experiencing medical symptoms, you should consult a physician immediately. The NRC can evaluate the circumstances that may have caused the radiation exposure and, where appropriate, take enforcement action against the facility involved.
What if I have a concern about the performance of the NRC in general or NRC employees in particular?
The NRC Office of the Inspector General (IG) conducts audits of NRC programs and operations and investigations of alleged misconduct on the part of NRC employees and contractors. If you have concerns in this area, you may contact the IG directly at 1-800-233-3497. If you have concerns about the performance of NRC employees that you do not consider misconduct, you should contact the responsible office or regional management.
What if I am concerned about the environment for raising concerns at a particular NRC licensed facility?
The NRC encourages the facilities it licenses to establish a work environment in which employees are encouraged and feel free to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation. (See NUREG/BR-0240, "Reporting Safety Concerns to the NRC:" Licensee Responsibility and Safety Conscious Work Environment for additional details.) Problems in this area can be difficult to evaluate since they may be subtle and not overtly discriminatory. Examples may include procedures or supervisors that complicate or discourage problem reporting or incentive policies that encourage less reporting of problems. The NRC refers to these types of situations as having a potential "chilling effect" in that they may infringe upon a worker's ability to raise safety concerns to their employer or to the NRC. The NRC will evaluate concerns regarding chilling effect on a case-by-case basis.
Will the NRC notify my employer of my concerns?
Because licensees have the primary responsibility for ensuring safe operation of the facility and, in most cases, can promptly address issues through ready access to site personnel and documentation related to the concerns raised, it is the NRC's policy to consider requesting from the licensee an evaluation of a technical allegation. In such cases, the NRC will try to inform you of the intent to request such information from your employer, in advance, and give you an opportunity to indicate whether this approach to resolution is of concern to you. Names and any other personal identifying information will be excluded from the information that is provided to your employer to protect your identity.
How will the NRC handle my concern, if it involves sensitive security information?
If your concern involves security-related information, the NRC staff member receiving your concern will remind you of the proper protocol for transmitting classified or Safeguards Information. If the setting is inappropriate for transmitting such information, separate arrangements will be made to enable proper transmittal.
In an effort to preclude the release of information useful to potential adversaries, controls are applied to the information that is provided to allegers raising security-related concerns to the NRC.
Security-related allegation concerns will be grouped into three categories:
Category I - Concerns that involve a potential generic industry security vulnerability.
Category II - Security-related concerns that, if true, would constitute more than a minor finding or violation, as determined by applicable guidance or review panels.
Category III - Security-related concerns that, if true, would, at most, constitute a minor finding or violation, as determined by applicable guidance or review panels.
Limited information will be provided for both substantiated and unsubstantiated security-related concerns that involve potential generic industry vulnerabilities (Category I). While we are fully committed to our goal of ensuring openness in our regulatory process, we must balance that goal with ensuring the continued safety and secure operation of nuclear facilities in our country. Normally, when we have completed our review of an allegation, we provide the alleger with information as to whether his or her concern was substantiated and details on the actions taken by the NRC to evaluate the concern. However, due to the nature of the security-related issues that fall into Category I, to ensure that the agency is not unnecessarily releasing information that would reveal any potential security-related vulnerabilities, the staff will not provide specific details regarding the NRC's evaluation of the concerns.
For those security-related concerns that, if true, would constitute more than a minor finding or violation, as determined by applicable guidance or review panels (Category II), the staff will provide a response to the alleger once required compensatory actions, if any, are in place. The response will indicate that a security-related assessment was conducted, including a review of the specific concern raised, and will indicate whether any findings were identified. To ensure that we do not unnecessarily release information that would reveal potential security-related vulnerabilities, the staff will not indicate whether any finding was specifically associated with the concerns raised by the alleger. If, however, the alleger requests additional information and the staff can verify that he or she is currently employed at the NRC-licensed facility that is associated with the allegation concerns as a member of the security force with normal access to such information, the staff will offer to discuss the specifics of the agency's actions and conclusions with the alleger. Employment and position verification will not be sought without prior permission from the alleger.
Finally, for those security-related concerns that, if true, would, at most, constitute a minor finding or violation, as determined by applicable guidance and review panels (Category III), the staff will provide a complete response to the alleger, once required compensatory actions, if any, are in place. The response to both substantiated and unsubstantiated concerns will include a description of the actions taken by the staff to evaluate the concern and the staff's conclusion regarding the validity of the concern, but would not include a description of the compensatory actions taken. If follow up of a security-related concern results in a minor finding or violation requiring compensatory actions, and if the alleger requests additional information and the staff can verify that he or she is currently employed at the NRC-licensed facility that is associated with the allegation concerns as a member of the security force with normal access to such information; the staff will offer to discuss the compensatory actions with the alleger. Again, employment and position verification will not be sought without prior permission from the alleger.
Questions regarding this process change can be directed to the NRC's Allegation Coordinators by calling the Safety Hotline: 1-800-695-7403.
What if I have additional questions about the NRC allegation process or if I want to obtain data about the allegations that are received by the NRC?
If you have questions concerning the allegation process, you can reach the NRC's Allegation Coordinators by calling the Safety Hotline: 1-800-695-7403. The NRC's Agency Allegation Advisor (AAA) oversees the integrity and implementation of the NRC allegation process. If you are dissatisfied with the allegation process or answers provided by the Allegation Coordinators, you can contact the AAA by calling 1-800-368-5642.
Data on allegations received by the NRC are posted on this Web site. If you have any questions concerning the data, you should contact the AAA.