Petition Requests Tighter Nuke Facility Regulation

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeks comments on a petition by former NRC consultant James Lieberman that would expand reporting standards for licensed nuclear facilities to non-licensees, the agency announced.
     Lieberman is a regulatory and nuclear safety consultant who was involved in the development of both the NRC rule on completeness and accuracy of information and the NRC rule on deliberate misconduct, according to the NRC announcement. Lieberman said in his petition he wants to “address a gap in the NRC regulatory framework.”
     Specifically, he said, “NRC regulations do not require all persons who seek NRC approvals to provide the NRC with complete and accurate information in all material respects.” The purpose of the petition, he said, “is to expand the NRC regulatory framework to make it a legal obligation for those non-licensees who seek NRC regulatory approvals be held to the same legal standards for the submittal of complete and accurate information as would a licensee or an applicant for a license.”
     A non-licensee includes contractors, subcontractors and “holders” of NRC approvals such as certificates of compliance, early site permits, standard design certificates, quality assurance program approvals or “applicants for any of them,” according to the NRC’s website.
     Licensees include any company, organization or institution licensed to construct or operate a nuclear facility or to “receive, possess, use, transfer, or dispose of source material, byproduct material or special nuclear material,” according to the agency’s website.
     Lieberman said in his petition the rule is not necessarily aimed at contractors and subcontractors who do not deal directly with the NRC.
     “It is a tenet of the NRC regulatory scheme that licensees are responsible for the actions of their contractors. The NRC has taken action against licensees and their contractors in the past,” he said.
     He added there is no “wide-spread” problem with the “accuracy and completeness” of non-licensee information, but that, given the potential for error and the effect it could have on the public, as well as national security, non-licensees should have even more motivation to get it right.
     “The NRC should not be making regulatory decisions based on information submitted by non-licensees if it cannot require that the submitted information be complete and accurate in all material respects . . . while NRC expects such persons to provide complete and accurate information, such persons are only subject to enforcement action if their actions violate the rule on deliberate misconduct. But if their actions in submitting materially inaccurate or incomplete information were the result of a lack of carefulness or gross negligence or even willfulness short of deliberateness, NRC would not be in a position to take enforcement action.” Lieberman said in his petition.
     Lieberman’s proposed action is meant to change that.
     In his view, “the standard for communication to the NRC on regulatory matters was set by the Atomic Energy Commission . . . where it stated that ‘we the commission require a regime in which applicants and licensees have every incentive to scrutinize their internal procedures to be sure as they possibly can that all submissions to this commission are accurate,” he said in his petition.
     Comments are due by Aug. 26.

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