Revision 1: Revisions to Staff Guidance For Implementing NRC Policy on Notices of Enforcement Discretion

WASHINGTON, DC 20555-0001

February 19, 1999



All holders of operating licenses for nuclear reactors.



The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this administrative letter to inform addressees of revisions to staff guidance for implementing the NRC's policy on Notices of Enforcement Discretion (NOEDs). No specific action or written response is required.



This administrative letter supersedes in its entirety Administrative Letter 95-05, dated November 7, 1995, on the same subject (Accession Number 9511070162)


NUREG-1600, "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions," Enforcement Policy, states that the staff, under certain limited circumstances, may choose not to enforce applicable plant-specific power reactor technical specifications (TSs) or other license conditions. This type of discretion is designated as a Notice of Enforcement Discretion (NOED). An NOED may be warranted if forced compliance with a power reactor license would involve an unnecessary plant transient; performance of tests, inspections or system realignments not appropriate for current plant conditions; or unnecessary delays in startup, without any corresponding health and safety benefits. It is a legitimate regulatory mechanism that allows the NRC staff to address unforeseen, temporary situations where the staff believes that strict compliance is neither the correct nor the safest course to follow and no other suitable regulatory approach is available. A valid NOED request that satisfies all the established criteria does not reflect negatively on a licensee's performance unless the licensee created the need for the NOED as a result of poor planning or failure to take appropriate corrective action earlier.

On November 7, 1995, the NRC published Administrative Letter 95-05 to inform all holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear reactors of the issuance of the revised NRC Inspection Manual (IM) Part 9900, "Technical Guidance," which contained staff guidelines for implementing the NOED policy. This guidance has been revised again to address certain policy changes described in staff requirements memorandum COMEXM-98-004, dated July 28, 1998; Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit findings and recommendations documented in OIG/98A-06, "Follow-up Review of NRC's Process for Issuing and Tracking NOEDs," dated July 30, 1998; industry comments received during the Utility/NRC Interface Licensing Workshop, July 20-21, 1998; and staff experience with the prior guidance.


Significant changes to the NOED guidance are as follows:


  1. The staff may now grant an NOED in cases involving severe weather or other natural events without prior Commission consultation. The Office of Nuclear Regulation (NRR) is responsible for granting such NOEDs. The Commission will be notified after the issuance of such NOEDs.
  2. All teleconferences between the licensee and the staff to discuss NOED requests will be made through the NRC Headquarters' Emergency Operations Center recorded telephone line. This recording provides a record of the discussion and a basis for verification of its consistency with the licensee's followup written request.
  3. The NOED will identify by name and title the key staff who participated in the NOED evaluation and approval and, if applicable, when the licensee's followup license amendment request will be or was submitted.
  4. When an NOED is granted, either by the region or NRR, the responsible resident inspector will open an Unresolved Item to facilitate prompt tracking, documentation, and closure of inspection, verification, and resolution activities, including enforcement action determinations associated with the NOED.
  5. In NOED requests, licensees are no longer required to state (a) whether prior adoption of TS enhancement initiatives (Generic Letter 87-09, "Line Item Improvements or the Improved Standard TS") would have obviated the need for the NOED or (b) whether the noncompliance involves an Unreviewed Safety Question.
  6. For NRR-issued NOEDs, the followup TS amendment will usually be issued within 4 weeks as an exigent amendment, unless otherwise justified.
  7. An NOED checklist is provided in Attachment D to IM Part 9900 as an aid to the staff in assuring adherence to this guidance. Its use is discretionary and it is a companion to, not a substitute for, the detailed guidance.

The revised guidance is attached to this administrative letter.

This administrative letter requires no specific action or written response. If you have any questions about this letter, please contact one of the persons listed below or the appropriate NRC Project Manager.

  /s/'d by Scott F. Newberry FOR

David B. Matthews, Director
Division of Regulatory Improvement Program
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation


Contacts: L. Raghavan, NRR
Herbert N. Berkow, NRR
Attachments: 1. NRC Inspection Manual, Part 9900, "Technical Guidance"
2. List of Recently Issued NRC Administrative Letters

(NUDOCS Accession Number 9902120309)

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