The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved changes to the commission’s Reactor Oversight Process.
The NRC approved a staff recommendation to require three low-to-moderate safety significance, or white, findings or performance indicators before a reactor can be moved into the “degraded cornerstone” category of regulatory oversight, also known as Column Three of the Reactor Oversight Process Action Matrix.
Current criteria would move a plant to Column Three based on two white inputs in the same cornerstone or a single yellow input. A staff assessment found that from a risk-informed perspective, three white findings, not two, are more closely equivalent to a single yellow input. In addition, moving from Column Two to Column Three currently increases the need for resources: Column Two involves about 40 hours of additional inspections, while Column Three requires 200 additional inspection hours.
The oversight process, started in 2000, assesses a nuclear plant’s performance across seven aspects of plant operation, called cornerstones. Inspection findings are color-coded as green, white, yellow or red, in increasing order of safety significance. Column One, the lowest, would be for a reactor receiving normal oversight, while Column Five is for reactors shut down for unacceptable performance. Performance indicators are objective data regarding licensee performance in the different cornerstones compiled by licensees and reported to the NRC and are color-coded in a similar manner.
The changes will take effect in January, and do not alter the current oversight status of any plants.
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