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Security & Emergency Preparedness COVID-19 Activities: Power Reactor Training & Qualification for Personnel Performing Security Duties | Emergency Preparedness

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10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI Nuclear Power Reactor Training and Qualification Plan for Personnel Performing Security Program Duties

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Highlights

  • The regulations in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI require individuals "assigned to perform duties and responsibilities required for the implementation of the Commission-approved security plans, licensee response strategy, and implementing procedures" to meet minimum training and qualification requirements.

  • The initial issuance of EGM 20-002 included an attachment allowing NRC inspectors to consider enforcement discretion for certain Appendix B requirements for security training and requalification. These include: 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI, Subpart B, "Employment Suitability and Qualification," Subpart C, "Duty Training," Subpart D, "Duty Qualification and Requalification," Subpart E, "Weapons Training," Subpart F, "Weapons Qualification and Requalification Program," and Subpart G, "Weapons, Personal Equipment and Maintenance."

  • The EGM is applicable to operating power reactors, power reactors undergoing decommissioning, and independent spent fuel storage installations issued a general license under 10 CFR Part 50.

  • On April 20, 2020, the NRC issued a letter titled, "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Planned Actions Related to the Requirements for Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Public Health Emergency." This letter outlines a process that licensees could use to request expedited NRC review of licensee requests for exemptions from specific sections of 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI. The objective of this expedited review process is to facilitate the processing of these exemption requests to ensure that the requirements do not unduly limit licensee flexibility in using personnel resources, and to do so in a manner that most effectively manages the impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19 PHE) on maintaining the safe and secure operation of these facilities, and the implementation of a licensee's Commission-approved security plans, protective strategy, and implementing procedures.

  • This letter provides information that licensees may use to request expedited review of requests for exemptions from one or more of the requirements in 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI related to (1) on-the-job training, (2) medical examinations for annual physical requalification, (3) tactical response and licensee-conducted force-on-force exercises, (4) annual requalification, (5) weapons range activities, (6) firearm instructor and armorer certifications, and (7) semiannual test firing.

  • Any granted exemptions will ensure security training and qualification programs appropriately maintain licensee flexibility in using personnel resources to most effectively manage the impacts of the COVID-19 PHE on maintaining the safe operation of operating nuclear power reactors, reactors undergoing decommissioning, and independent spent fuel storage installations issued a general license under 10 CFR Part 50.

  • For approved COVID-19 licensing requests, please see Approved COVID-19 Licensing Actions webpage.

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Related Communication

  • On November 10, 2020, the NRC issued a letter to provide guidance on the continued use of expedited processes beyond December 31, 2020 for COVID-19 related requests in seven topical areas. Enclosures to the letter address informational needs for each of the seven topical areas to facilitate the continued licensee’s use of the NRC's expedited review process, such as providing justifications for the hardships that have resulted from the COVID-19 PHE and information related to the potential cumulative effects of these exemptions.

  • On April 15, 2020 the NRC issued Attachment 1 to EGM 20-002 to provide guidance to NRC inspection staff for the disposition of apparent violations of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements for security training and requalification during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).

  • On April 20, 2020 the NRC issued a letter to outline the process by which the NRC is prepared to grant temporary exemptions from the requirements specified in 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI, Subparts B, C, D, E, F, and/or G.

  • On October 13, 2020, the NRC issued a letter as an addendum to the April 20, 2020, letter to provide guidance to power reactor licensees seeking exemption from annual licensee-conducted force-on-force (FOF) exercise requirement in Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI, "Nuclear Power Reactor Training and Qualification Plan for Personnel Performing Security Program Duties," paragraph C.3(l)(1).

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Frequently Asked Questions – 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI

1. Why is the NRC prepared to consider an expedited review of exemption requests from certain 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI requirements?

The NRC recognizes that licensees may face challenges in complying with some or all of the training and requalification requirements in Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI as a result of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE) and the need to implement precautionary measures to protect licensee personnel from exposure to COVID-19.  Accordingly, licensees may need to request a temporary exemption from certain training and requalification requirements in 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI.  If approved, the temporary exemption will facilitate licensee efforts to maintain security personnel staffing levels and effectively implement the licensee'&rsquo';s physical protection program necessary to protect their facility, despite the potential impacts from the COVID-19 PHE.

Notably, as identified in the April 20, 2020, letter to licensees (hereafter referred to as the exemption guidance letter), it is the NRC's expectation that only security personnel who have previously satisfied the training and qualification requirements from which the licensee is requesting relief will fall within the scope of these exemptions.  Furthermore, it is the NRC's expectation that licensees will first make all reasonable efforts to meet regulatory requirements despite the COVID-19 PHE before requesting an exemption.  The NRC further expects that if an exemption is requested and granted, licensees will implement measures to mitigate the impact of these temporary exemptions.  If licensees provide the information identified in the exemption guidance letter, the NRC is prepared to review these exemption requests on an expedited basis.

2. What is the objective of this expedited exemption review process?

The objective of this expedited review process is to facilitate the processing of licensee exemption requests from certain 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI security requirements. This will help to ensure that the requirements do not unduly limit licensee flexibility in using personnel resources in a manner that most effectively manages the impacts of the COVID-19 PHE.

3. Why did the NRC move so quickly on this?

The NRC took this proactive action so that licensee compliance with certain NRC security requirements will not unduly limit licensee flexibility in using personnel resources in a manner that most effectively manages the potential impacts of the COVID-19 PHE on the safe and secure operation of a licensee's facility.

4.  What does the NRC review when using the expedited review process to consider a licensee's request for exemption from a security requirement?

As stated in 10 CFR 73.5: "The Commission may, upon application of any interested person or on its own initiative, grant such exemptions from the requirements of the regulations in this part as it determines are authorized by law and will not endanger life or property or the common defense and security, and are otherwise in the public interest." 

When the NRC staff uses the expedited review process, the staff will review a licensee's security exemption requests on a case-by-case basis. The NRC's exemption guidance letter addresses many topics, including (but not limited to) the requested scope and duration of the exemption, and any mitigating measures the licensee commits to implement and maintain for the duration of the exemption.

5. How should a licensee submit a COVID-19 related request for an exemption from the Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI requirements so that it is processed expeditiously?

Licensees should make every effort to submit timely exemption requests in accordance with 10 CFR 73.4, "Communications.  Each exemption request for which the licensee is seeking expeditious review should specifically address all of the information requested in the NRC's exemption guidance letter.  Licensees should ensure they provide enough supporting information and justifications to enable the NRC to determine whether the exemption request can be reviewed under the expedited exemption review process.  Exemption requests that fall outside the parameters discussed in the exemption guidance letter, will be reviewed using the normal exemption process.  As always, the NRC will try to review exemption requests that fall outside the expedited review process promptly. 

Consistent with the NRC's exemption guidance letter, to ensure an expedited review of these exemption requests, licensees that plan to request an expedited review should coordinate with their facility's NRC project manager prior to submitting the request. An email to the facility's NRC project manager from a senior level licensee manager with decision-making authority with a copy to the NRC Document Control Desk is an acceptable format for the written exemption request seeking expedited processing.

6. What if a licensee wants to do something different than what is described in the NRC's exemption guidance letter?

The exemption guidance letter does not preclude requests for exemptions that take a different approach or present different rationales or proposed end dates. However, the NRC cannot guarantee expedited review of exemption requests that fall outside the scope of the exemption guidance letter.

7. Will the NRC expeditiously consider exemption requests even in cases where no security personnel at the site have tested positive for COVID-19?

Yes.  One objective of the expedited review process is to help facilitate the licensee's implementation of security requirements in Appendix B, Section VI in a manner that does not conflict with licensee practices to support implementation of CDC guidelines and potentially reduce the risk of exposing licensee personnel to COVID-19.  Therefore, a confirmed case onsite is not necessary for the NRC to consider an expedited exemption request.

8. Would a licensee still be able to leverage the process outlined in the letter if they cannot provide the information identified in the NRC's exemption guidance letter?  

To receive expedited review of the exemption request from 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI, licensees should submit a request that contains, at a minimum, the information identified in the exemption guidance letter.  Licensees should ensure they provide enough supporting information and justifications to enable the NRC to determine whether the exemption request could be reviewed under the expedited exemption review process.  Exemption requests that do not provide the information specified in the exemption guidance letter, or that fall outside the parameters discussed in the exemption guidance letter, will be reviewed using the normal exemption process.  As always, the NRC will try to review exemption requests that fall outside the scope of the exemption guidance letter promptly.

9. Does the NRC's exemption guidance letter apply to decommissioning reactors and ISFSIs operating under a general license?

Yes.  The information in the exemption guidance letter is applicable to applicants and power reactor licensees subject to 10 CFR 73.55, including operating and decommissioning power reactors, and independent spent fuel storage installations operating under a general license.

10. Would a licensee receive a violation if it is not in compliance with 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, Section VI?

Typically, yes.  However, by letter dated April 15, 2020, the NRC issued Enforcement Guidance Memorandum (EGM) 20-002 regarding dispositioning violations of NRC regulations during the COVID-19 PHE.  The EGM discusses the circumstances under which a licensee may receive enforcement discretion.

11. Once the COVID-19 PHE concludes, how long do licensees have to restore compliance with the 10 CFR Part 73 requirements from which the NRC had granted a temporary exemption?

Once approved, the temporary exemption will be in effect until 90 days after the COVID-19 PHE has been terminated, or until December 31, 2020, whichever comes first.  The NRC believes that ending the exemption 90 days after the PHE ends provides a reasonable period of time for licensees to come back into compliance with the regulatory requirements for which the temporary exemption had been granted.  Licensees must restore compliance with the regulations or receive approval for an additional exemption period from the NRC before the end of each exemption period.

12. Page C-2 of Enclosure C of the exemption guidance letter lists four scenario-based evolutions to conduct to ensure contingency response readiness, including "Communication Based Exercises." Is the intent of the communication-based exercise to mimic a tabletop exercise via radio communications and allow officers to participate via radio at their designated response positions?

Yes.  The intent of the communication-based exercise is to provide licensees with an option to conduct contingency response readiness training and drills/exercises in a manner that does not require response force members to be in close proximity while conducting the training.

13. In Enclosures E and G of the exemption guidance letter the NRC suggests the licensee include a statement that identifies the reason(s) why the weapons range activity or semiannual test firing cannot be completed and provides, as an example, the fact that the licensee has no access to a range complex.  Can NRC provide more examples?

Yes. Another example would be if the licensee were utilizing all available security staff (such as firearm instructors and armorers) to perform daily operational duties associated with security operations, which would render them unavailable to conduct weapons range activities. Licensees should describe such conditions and circumstances in the site's exemption request, if the licensee wishes to take advantage of the NRC's expedited exemption review process.

14. In Enclosure C of the exemption guidance letter the NRC provided the following guidance for licensees developing an exemption request from Appendix B, Section VI, Subsection C.3(l)(1):

"A statement that describes the measures the licensee is taking to ensure contingency response readiness despite security personnel not participating in a quarterly drill or annual FOF [Force-on-Force] exercise, or both, for which the licensee is requesting an exemption:

  • 1) These measures should include one of the following scenario-based evolutions:
    • a table top exercise
    • a communication-based exercise
    • a lessons-learned review of past exercise
    • a walkdown of previous exercise route of travel

  • 2) The NRC does not expect licensees to conduct quarterly tactical drills to make up for those missed during the exemption period after the exemption expires.  However, the NRC does expect licensees to conduct any missed annual licensee-conducted FOF exercises after the PHE ends, and, if applicable, licensees should include information in their exemption requests addressing how they plan to accomplish the missed annual FOF exercises."

Does this mean that licensees will have the option to conduct one of the bulleted items in paragraph 1) above in lieu of conducting the annual licensee-conducted FOF exercises following the exemption period?

No.  The bulleted items identify four measures that a licensee can implement to demonstrate contingency response readiness during the exemption period, despite the licensee not being able to conduct a quarterly tactical drill, licensee-conducted annual FOF exercise, or both.  These bulleted measures are not a replacement for quarterly tactical drills or a licensee-conducted annual FOF exercises.

A licensee that continues to conduct quarterly tactical drills but is granted an exemption from the annual licensee-conducted FOF exercise does not have to implement one of the four bulleted items in addition to the quarterly tactical drill.  The conducted quarterly tactical drills are sufficient to demonstrate contingency response readiness during the exemption period notwithstanding that the licensee will not be performing an annual licensee-conducted FOF exercise.

15. If a licensee is granted an exemption from the annual Force-on-Force (FOF) exercise requirement, does this mean they are not subject to NRC Triennial FOF inspections if the inspection is scheduled during the timeframe that the licensee was granted the exemption?

No.  The NRC Triennial FOF inspection is not part of the annual licensee-conducted FOF exercise requirement in 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, subsection VI.C.3.(l)(1).  While this requirement states that "[f]orce-on-force exercises conducted to satisfy the NRC triennial evaluation requirement can be used to satisfy the annual force-on-force requirement for the personnel that participate in the capacity of the security response organization," this does not relieve licensees from NRC-led inspections, which are mandated by Section 170D of the Atomic Energy Act, as amended.  The NRC will work with licensees to schedule the triennial FOF exercise.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, November 18, 2020