Modernised safety management rule streamlines processes

11 November 2020

A modernised nuclear safety management rule due to come into effect in the USA focuses on safety while minimising unnecessary administrative burden. The Final Rule focuses on improved clarity of requirements and will allow more attention to be paid to safety hazard challenges and less time on redundant efforts or administrative tasks, according to Garrett Smith, director of the Office of Nuclear Safety at the US Department of Energy (DOE).

Garrett Smith (Image: DOE)

The DOE's overarching nuclear safety requirements are governed by rule 10 CFR part 830, Nuclear Safety Management, first published in 2001. This governs the conduct of DOE personnel and contractors who carry out activities that affect, or may affect, the safety of DOE nuclear facilities. However, since the rule was published, the department and its contract workers "adhered to what are sometimes duplicative and unnecessary administrative tasks that do little to enhance safety", Smith said in an article published by the Office of Nuclear Safety.

The DOE in 2017 began work to modernise and update those requirements to increase efficiency and effectiveness without "sacrificing" safety, in an effort undertaken as part of the US Administration's broader regulatory reform agenda. A working group led by the DOE Office of Nuclear Safety initiated the effort to pursue a rulemaking based on a list of proposed internal reforms recommended by then-Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, with the intent of achieving significant improvements in efficiency while also maintaining contractor performance standards. The working group also incorporated input from nuclear safety subject matter experts from the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Environmental Management, Office of Nuclear Energy, and Office of Science.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking containing proposed changes was issued for public comment by the DOE in August 2018 and, following a "thorough, transparent, and deliberative process" including four public meetings, a final rulemaking decision was issued in October 2020.

"The final rule, which incorporates nearly 20 years of contractor operational experience and public feedback, focuses on improved clarity of requirements and modest process changes that reduce unnecessary burden to make DOE nuclear safety management operations more efficient. This allows DOE to pay more attention to higher hazard safety challenges and less time on redundant efforts or administrative tasks," Smith said.

Specific enhancements to 10 CFR part 830 include: streamlining the process by which newly identified safety concerns, referred to as unreviewed safety questions, are defined; elimination of duplicative DOE approvals of safety documentation; modification and clarification of definitions of new and existing nuclear facilities; and updates for added clarity, including references to DOE guidance and policy.

The Final Rule will be effective from 18 November, Smith said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News