Summary - Severity Levels; Civil Penalties; Civil Penalty Adjustment Factors; Enforcement Conferences; Commission Consultation; Actions Against Licensed Operators
Public Law 96-295 amended the AEA on June 30, 1980 to raise the maximum CP from $5000 to $100,000. The Commission had already begun to consider publishing a comprehensive statement of enforcement policy, and the AEA amendment provided further impetus for a significant update of the enforcement program. On October 7, 1980, the first Enforcement Policy was published in the Federal Register, to be later codified as Appendix C to 10 CFR 2. The new Enforcement Policy's stated goals included ensuring compliance, obtaining prompt correction of licensee weaknesses, deterring future noncompliance through strong enforcement measures, and encouraging improvement of licensee performance. The Commission's stated intent was to have an enforcement program marked by "an aggressive enforcement strategy that seeks more frequent use of stronger enforcement measures," one that would ensure that "noncompliance is more expensive than compliance." Proposed actions under the new Policy were especially aggressive for more severe violations; the outlined progression of escalated enforcement sanctions included suspension of affected operations and "show cause" orders for repeated similar violations in a given activity area. The structure of enforcement actions under the new Policy was modified and more detailed. All noncompliances with regulations and license conditions were now called violations. Six severity levels were outlined, with examples given for each level in seven activity areas ranging from Reactor Operations to Transportation. Base CPs were outlined for SLs I through V, differentiated for four separate types of licensees. These differences in proposed base CPs were based on the potential public safety impact of noncompliance, and on the licensee's ability to pay. For power reactors, the base CP amounts ranged from $80,000 (for a SL I or II) to $5000 (for an SL V). Other changes included introducing enforcement conferences as an informal enforcement mechanism, specifying circumstances under which violations might not be cited, outlining actions that could be taken against licensed operators, listing situations that required Commission consultation, and using specified percentages for certain CP adjustment factors. If a licensee identified, corrected, and reported (where necessary) a violation in a timely fashion and prior to NRC discovery, the CP could be reduced by as much as 50%. A missed prior opportunity to identify the violation could result in up to 25% escalation. On the other hand, up to 25% special mitigation could be applied for licensee "good faith" (i.e., if the violation was the result of an honest mistake), so long as the licensee also took extraordinary corrective measures to prevent recurrence. Finally, the CP could be increased up to 100% per day for a violation that continued more than one day. The Commission requested public comment on the new Policy, and approved it as interim staff guidance. Five public meetings were held across the country to discuss the Policy. Public comments ranged from enthusiastic to highly critical; principal criticism included: (1) the perceived adversarial tone of the new Policy; (2) the lack of flexibility given to consider extenuating licensee circumstances; (3) inadequate recognition of licensee self-monitoring programs; (4) inconsistency among severity levels as applied to various activity areas; (5) lack of clarity in certain severity level examples; and (6) inadequate distinctions between the more minor severity levels. Significant revisions to the Enforcement Policy are listed below.