RIS 01-020: Revisions to Staff Guidance for Implementing NRC Policy on Notices of Enforcement Discretion

November 14, 2001


All holders of operating licenses for nuclear power reactors, except those who have permanently ceased operations and have certified that fuel has been permanently removed from the reactor vessel.


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this regulatory issue summary (RIS) to notify addressees that NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900, "Technical Guidance - Notices of Enforcement Discretion," (NOEDs) has been revised to clarify the staff's existing policy on allowable risk associated in granting "regular" NOEDs. The revision is attached.

This RIS supersedes RIS 2001-10 dated April 2, 2001, on the same subject. This RIS does not transmit any new requirements or staff positions. No specific action or written response is required.

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Background Information

The NRC expects all nuclear power plant licensees to operate their facilities safely and in compliance with NRC regulations, the plant license, including technical specifications (TS), and other requirements. Nevertheless, in unusual circumstances, strict compliance with an NRC requirement could result in an unnecessary plant transient or unnecessary delays in plant startup or the performance of a test, inspection, or system realignment that is inappropriate for the prevailing plant conditions. In these circumstances, licensees may request that the NRC exercise discretion and refrain from enforcing applicable TS before a violation occurs. The NRC issues an NOED only when it is clear that the action is consistent with the agency's mission to protect public health and safety. NUREG-1600, the NRC's "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions (Enforcement Policy)," establishes NRC policy for granting or denying requests for NOEDs.

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The staff guidance on evaluating NOED requests has always been that the granting of any "regular" NOED (as distinguished from a "weather-related" NOED) must be at least safety and risk neutral. In the previous revision to the staff NOED guidance in Inspection Manual Part 9900, dated December 12, 2000, and as transmitted by RIS 2001-10, dated April 2, 2001, we clarified the difference between "regular" and "weather-related" NOEDs. In doing so, the staff prefaced the Section B.2.1 discussion of "regular" NOEDs with the statement: "Granting of this type of an NOED shall not involve an increase in radiological risk." This was not intended to be a change from the staff's previous requirement that such NOEDs must be at least safety and risk neutral. However, because it was a new statement and was not explained adequately, it was subject to misinterpretation and caused some confusion.

The attached revision clarifies the staff's intent. This is the only significant change to the guidance. Other changes are administrative or editorial.

Backfit Discussion

This regulatory issue summary requires no action or written response. Recommended licensee actions are voluntary. Consequently, the staff did not perform a backfit analysis.

Federal Register Notice

The staff did not publish a notice of opportunity for public comment in the Federal Register because this regulatory issue summary is informational and pertains to a staff procedure. The policy that the procedure implements was published in the Federal Register and the NRC staff considered all of the comments it received.

Paperwork Reduction Act Statement

This RIS does not request any information collection.

If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact one of the technical contacts listed below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager.

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  /RA Christopher I. Grimes for/
David B. Matthews, Director
Division of Regulatory Improvement Programs
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation
Technical contacts: L. Raghavan, NRR
(301) 415-1471
H. Berkow, NRR
(301) 415-1485
  1. NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 - Technical Guidance Notices of Enforcement Discretion
  2. List of Recently Issued NRC Regulatory Issue Summaries

(ADAMS Accession Number ML013190655)

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