United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Interim Policy Regarding Enforcement Discretion for Nuclear Power Plants During the Year 2000 Transition

[Federal Register: July 30, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 146)]
[Notices]
[Page 41474-41476]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr30jy99-157]

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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[NUREG-1600, Revision 1]

Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions;
Interim Enforcement Policy Regarding Enforcement Discretion for Nuclear Power Plants During the Year 2000 Transition

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Policy statement; amendment.

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SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is amending its "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, Revision 1 (Enforcement Policy), by adding Appendix E. This amendment adds an interim enforcement policy that the NRC will follow to exercise enforcement discretion for noncompliance with license conditions, including technical specifications (TSs), because of year 2000 (Y2K) related situations.

DATES: This action is effective August 30, 1999. Comments on this revision should be submitted within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register and will be considered by the NRC prior to the next Enforcement Policy revision.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to David L. Meyer, Chief, Rules and Directives Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, Mail Stop T-6 D59, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. Hand deliver comments to 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., Federal workdays. Copies of comments received may be examined at the NRC Public Document Room, 2120 L Street, NW, (Lower Level), Washington, DC.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Richard Wessman, Deputy Director, Division of Engineering, 301-415-3298, or Allen Hansen, Lead Project Manager, Division of Licensing, Project Management, 301-415-1390, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Y2K-related events arise from a date-related problem that is experienced by a software system, a software application, or a digital device at a key rollover date when the system, application, or device does not perform its intended function. The key rollover dates are January 1, 2000; February 29, 2000 (an uncommon leap day); and December 31, 2000 (the 366th day of an uncommon leap year). The nuclear utility industry is engaged in Y2K readiness programs at all nuclear power plant facilities to seek out and correct Y2K-related problems that have any potential to adversely affect facility operations.

Y2K concerns result from licensees' reliance upon:

(1) Software to schedule maintenance and technical specification surveillances;

(2) Programmable logic controllers and other commercial off-the-shelf software and hardware;

(3) Digital process control systems;

(4) Software to support facility operation;

(5) Digital systems for collection of operating data; and

(6) Digital systems to monitor post-accident plant conditions.

It is recognized that in spite of every reasonable effort by licensees to identify and correct Y2K computer system problems at their facilities, some software, applications, equipment, and systems may remain susceptible to the problem. Additionally, software, data, and systems external to the facility could adversely affect the facility (for example, interruption of communications or partial loss of offsite power).

The electricity production and delivery systems, as two of the more important elements of the North American economic and social infrastructure, must remain dependable during Y2K transition or rollover periods. Most other critical elements of the infrastructure depend on the availability of an interconnected, stable, and reliable supply of electrical power. There is no doubt that cascading or even localized outages of generators and transmission facilities could have serious short-term and long-term consequences.

Continued safe operation of nuclear power plants during Y2K transition or rollover periods will play a major role in maintaining stable and reliable electrical power supply systems, providing necessary reserve power if there are major losses at other generating facilities. The NRC staff is issuing interim guidance on the process for the NRC to exercise enforcement discretion in certain situations where power reactor licensees encounter Y2K-associated compliance problems in the Y2K transition period (December 31, 1999, through the first few days of 2000) or in other key rollover periods. The exercise of enforcement discretion may support a licensee decision to keep the plant in operation, if the licensee has determined that safety will not be unacceptably affected, in order to help maintain electrical grid stability and reliability. The NRC Headquarters Operations Center and the NRC Region IV Incident Response Center will have staff augmented during the key transition from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, to ensure that appropriate actions can be taken for any regulatory issues that arise.

Scope

This interim enforcement policy provides for the exercise of enforcement discretion to address noncompliance with license conditions, including TSs, because of Y2K transition or rollover issues. The interim enforcement policy applies to situations in which plant operation is needed to help maintain the stability and reliability of the electrical power supply system, even when license conditions, including TSs, would require a plant shutdown. If such situations occur, licensees are expected to follow the existing guidance in NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 for Notices of Enforcement Discretion to the maximum extent practicable, particularly regarding a safety determination and notification of NRC. Licensees may decide to continue operations upon making a determination that it is safe and prudent to do so to help maintain electrical grid stability and reliability, and when certain criteria are met. This enforcement discretion does not extend to situations in which the licensee may be unable to communicate with the NRC. (The staff assessment of telecommunications capability indicates that a loss of all telecommunications between NRC and licensees is highly unlikely.)

To the extent noncompliance was involved, the NRC staff will normally take enforcement action for the root causes that led to the noncompliance for which enforcement discretion was used. Enforcement action will also be considered in those cases in which incorrect or incomplete information was provided to the NRC staff by a licensee in its justification. The NRC recognizes that a licensee will need to exercise judgement in making a determination under this discretion provision. Consistent with the NRC's position involving 10 CFR 50.54(x), enforcement action for a violation of a license condition, including a TS, will not be taken unless a licensee's action was clearly unreasonable considering all the relevant circumstances. Enforcement action could include the assessment of civil penalties and the issuance of orders.

Paperwork Reduction Act Statement

This interim policy statement does not contain a new or amended information collection requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). Existing requirements were approved by the Office of Management and Budget, approval number 3150-0136.

Public Protection Notification

If a means used to impose an information collection does not display a currently valid OMB control number, the NRC may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, the information collection.

The NRC is revising the NRC Enforcement Policy by adding Appendix E to read as follows:

General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions

* * * * *

Appendix E: Interim Enforcement Policy Regarding Enforcement Discretion for Nuclear Power Plants During the Year 2000 Transition

This appendix sets forth the interim enforcement policy that will govern the exercise of enforcement discretion by the NRC staff when licensees of operating nuclear power plants find it necessary to deviate from license conditions, including technical specifications (TSs), in those cases in which year 2000 (Y2K) related complications would otherwise require a plant shutdown that could adversely affect the stability and reliability of the electrical power grid. This policy does not extend to situations in which a licensee may be unable to communicate with the NRC.

The policy is effective August 30, 1999 and will remain in effect through January 1, 2001. This policy only applies during Y2K transition or rollover periods (December 31, 1999, through January 3, 2000; February 28, 2000, through March 1, 2000; and December 30, 2000, through January 1, 2001). During these periods, a licensee may contact the NRC Headquarters Operations Center and seek NRC enforcement discretion with regard to the potential noncompliance with license conditions, including TSs, if the licensee has determined that:

(a) Complying with license conditions, including TSs, in a Y2K-related situation would require a plant shutdown;

(b) Continued plant operation is needed to help maintain a reliable and stable grid; and

(c) Any decrease in safety as a result of continued plant operation is small (considering both risk and deterministic aspects), and reasonable assurance of public health and safety, the environment, and security is maintained with the enforcement discretion.

Licensees are expected to follow the existing guidance as stated in NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 for Notices of Enforcement Discretion to the maximum extent practicable, particularly regarding a safety determination and notification of NRC. A licensee seeking NRC enforcement discretion must provide a written justification, or in circumstances in which good cause is shown, an oral justification followed as soon as possible by written justification. The justification must document the need and safety basis for the request and provide whatever other information the NRC staff needs to make a decision regarding whether the exercise of discretion is appropriate. The NRC staff may grant enforcement discretion on the basis of balancing the public health and safety or common defense and security of not operating against potential radiological or other hazards associated with continued operation, and a determination that safety will not be unacceptably affected by exercising the discretion. The Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, or designee, will advise the licensee whether the NRC has approved the licensee's request and, if so, will subsequently confirm the exercise of discretion in writing. Enforcement discretion will only be exercised if the NRC staff is clearly satisfied that the action is consistent with protecting public health and safety and is warranted in the circumstances presented by the licensee.

If the volume of requests to the NRC Headquarters Operations Center is such that the NRC staff cannot review and approve all licensee requests in a timely fashion, the NRC staff will obtain the safety-significant information from the licensee to enable the NRC staff to make a prompt initial assessment. Unless the assessment is unfavorable, the licensee would be permitted to proceed with its planned course of action. The NRC staff will complete these assessments as time permits and the licensee will be advised of the results orally, if possible, and then in writing. If the NRC staff's prompt initial assessment or subsequent assessment determines that a licensee's actions raise safety concerns, the licensee would be so informed. The licensee would then be required to follow its license conditions, including TSs.

If there are communications difficulties between the licensee and the NRC, the licensee is encouraged to interact with the NRC inspector onsite who will have a dedicated satellite telephone. The inspector should be able to facilitate communication with the NRC Headquarters Operations Center and/or the NRC Regional Incident Response Centers (IRCs). If communication with the NRC Headquarters Operations Center is not possible, then the licensee should contact the IRC in NRC Region IV to discuss enforcement discretion. Similarly, if the Region IV IRC cannot be reached, then the licensee should attempt to contact the Region I, II and III IRCs. Although it is considered highly unlikely, if communication with NRC is not possible, the licensee should follow the plant license conditions, including technical specifications.

In conducting its assessments, the licensee should follow, to the extent practicable, the guidance in NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 for Notices of Enforcement Discretion. Contrary to Part 9900 Section B.3 guidance, it is not necessary for an emergency to be declared by a government entity. Licensees are encouraged to contact NRC early in their evaluation process, particularly if time is of the essence, even though complete information as specified in Part 9900 may not be available.

The decision to exercise enforcement discretion does not change the fact that the licensee will be in noncompliance nor does it imply that enforcement discretion is being exercised for any noncompliance that may have led to the noncompliance at issue. To the extent noncompliance was involved, the NRC staff will normally take enforcement action for the root causes that led to the noncompliance for which enforcement discretion was granted. Enforcement action will also be considered in those cases in which incorrect or incomplete information was provided to the NRC staff by a licensee in its justification. The NRC recognizes that a licensee will need to exercise judgement in making a determination under this discretion provision. Consistent with the NRC's position involving 10 CFR 50.54(x), enforcement action for a violation of a license condition, including a TS, will not be taken unless a licensee's action was clearly unreasonable considering all the relevant circumstances. Enforcement action could include assessment of civil penalties and the issuance of orders.

Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 26th day of July, 1999.

For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Annette L. Vietti-Cook
Secretary of the Commission.

[FR Doc. 99-19574 Filed 7-29-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P

 

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