IE Circular No. 81-02, Performance of NRC-Licensed Individuals While on Duty

                                                          SSINS No.: 6830  
                                                          Accession No.:   
                                                          IEC 81-02        

                               UNITED STATES 
                           WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555 

                              February 9, 1981 


Description of Circumstances: 

Recently, an NRC inspector observed two licensed reactor operators who 
appeared to be asleep while on duty in the control room. A subsequent NRC 
investigation into the matter concluded that the operators were not fully 
attentive to their licensed duties of monitoring reactor conditions, which 
is a serious matter of safety significance. Furthermore, the investigation 
concluded that management controls were inadequate to assure the alertness 
of licensed operators while on duty. Enforcement action was taken after it 
was determined that attentive operators were not present at the controls as 
required by 10 CFR 50.54(k). 


NRC believes that a relationship exists between the professional attitude of
a nuclear plant's operating and management personnel and the degree to which
the health and safety of the public is protected. NRC believes that 
professional attitude is reflected in high standards of performance 
including pride in the facility as demonstrated by the nuclear power plant 
staff. Factors making up this professional attitude include knowledge of all 
aspects of plant status by licensed control room operators, maintaining an 
orderly and clean working environment, aggressiveness of the operating staff 
to prevent operational problems, and correcting observed deficiencies. NRC 
believes that clarification of its position on this subject is necessary 
because several recent events involving licensed operators indicate a lack 
of a professional attitude at some nuclear power plants. 

The following conditions and practices are among those the NRC believes to 
be necessary for the maintenance of a professional atmosphere in the control
room and throughout the facility. 

1.   All on-duty NRC-licensed operators and operating supervisors must be 
     aware of and responsible for the plant status at all times. This 
     includes supervisors being responsible for the performance of all 
     personnel assigned to their shift who could affect plant safety, 
     regardless of specialty affiliation. Knowledge of the plant's status 
     must be assured during shift changes by a formal watch turnover and 

Recently issued IE circulars

                                                        IEC 81-02         
                                                        February 9, 1981  
                                                        Page 2 of 3       

2.   All on-duty NRC-licensed operators must be alert, remain within their 
     immediate areas of responsibility until properly relieved, and be 
     particularly attentive to the instrumentation and controls located 
     within these areas at all times. 

3.   Potentially distracting activities in the control room and other watch 
     stations must be prohibited (for example: radios, TV, alcohol use or 
     drug abuse, games, horseplay, hobbies, and reading that is, not 
     directly job related). 

4.   Control room access must be limited to those persons on official 
     business only and loitering in this area must be prohibited. 

5.   All necessary plant-related technical/administrative control room 
     business must be conducted at a location and in such a manner that 
     neither licensed control room operator attentiveness nor the 
     professional atmosphere will be compromised. This includes activities 
     associated with the use of special eating and training facilities for 
     on-shift personnel. 

Additional Information: 

NRC inspectors will be particularly mindful of those conditions and 
practices described above during future inspections of licensed nuclear 

For more specific information, you are referred to the following NRC 

1.   10 CFR 50, "Domestic Licensing of Production and Utilization 
     Facilities," Paragraph 50.54 

2.   10 CFR 55 , "Operators' Licenses," Paragraph 55.31 and 55.40 

3.   Regulatory Guide 1.114, "Guidance on Being Operator at the Controls of 
     a Nuclear Power Plant" 

4.   IE Information Notice 79-20, Revision 1, "NRC Enforcement Policy 
     NRC-Licensed Individuals" 

5.   Letter from D. G. Eisenhut, NRC, to All Licensees and Applicants, dated
     July 31, 1980, Subject: Interim Criteria for Shift Staffing 

The following excerpts are taken from some of these documents and are 
provided for your information: 

1.   Only licensed operators are permitted to manipulate the controls that 
     directly affect the reactivity or power level of a reactor [10 CFR 

2.   Licensed operators are required to be present at the controls at all 
     times during the operation of the facility [10 CFR 50.54(k)]. 

3.   Operation of mechanisms and apparatus other than controls that may 
     indirectly affect the power level or reactivity of a reactor shall only
     be accomplished with the knowledge and consent of an operator licensed 
     in accordance with Part 55 [10 CFR 50.54(j)]. 

                                                         IEC 81-02        
                                                         February 9, 1981 
                                                         Page 3 of 3      

4.   The NRC-licensed individual shall observe all applicable rules, 
     regulations and orders of the Commission, whether or not stated in the 
     license [10 CFR 55.31(d)]. 

5.   The operating test, to the extent applicable to the facility, requires 
     the applicant to demonstrate an understanding of: 

          The necessity for a careful approach to the responsibility 
          associated with the safe operation of the facility [10 CFR 

6.   In order for the operator at the controls of a nuclear power plant to 
     be able to carry out these and other responsibilities in a timely 
     fashion, he must give his attention to the condition of the plant at 
     all times. He must be alert to ensure that the plant is operating 
     safely and must be capable of taking action to prevent any progress 
     toward a condition that might be unsafe (Regulatory Guide 1.114.B). 

NRC policy regarding responsibility for safe operation of NRC-licensed 
facilities as stated in IE Information Notice 79-20, Revision 1, continues 
to be as follows: 

1.   "The facility licensee is responsible for assuring that the facility is
     operated safely and within the requirements of the license, technical 
     specifications, rules, regulations, and Orders of the NRC, and for the 
     actions of their on-duty employees while on site." 

2.   "NRC-licensed individuals are responsible for taking timely and proper 
     actions that will not create or cause a hazard to 'safe operation of 
     the facility' (i.e. , actions or activities, including failure to take 
     action, related to the facility that could have an adverse effect on 
     the health and safety of the public, plant workers, or the 

Recommended Action for Licensee's Consideration: 

Each power reactor licensee should review and revise, as necessary, their 
administrative controls regarding operator performance to ensure the 
guidance contained or referenced herein is incorporated. These 
administrative controls should prescribe performance requirements for 
licensed personnel and specify types of activities that are prohibited while 
licensed personnel are on duty. These administrative controls should be 
considered for applicability to other plant personnel whose actions, while 
on duty, may affect plant safety or the orderly conduct of facility 
operation. Licensees should assure dissemination of these administrative 
requirements to affected personnel.* It is also requested that licensees 
have their licensed personnel review this Circular and IE Information Notice 
79-20, Revision 1, as well as Regulatory Guide 1.114. No written response to 
this Circular is required. If you require additional information regarding 
this matter, contact the Director of the appropriate NRC Regional Office. 

*A copy of this Circular was mailed directly to each licensed reactor 
operator and senior reactor operator. 


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