NRC Issues TVA New Orders On Safety-Conscious Work Culture

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a confirmatory order to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to formally initiate a new round of corrective actions based on a lingering issue with the utility involving the work culture at its nuclear power plants, including Watts Bar, Browns Ferry and Sequoyah.

Watts BarThe confirmatory order, defining corrective actions outlined in an agreement made in early June between TVA and the regulator under the guidance of a third-party mediator, is the follow up to findings last fall that the work culture at TVA's Watts Bar plant near Spring City, Tenn., continued to include concerns of management responses to workers who brought up safety concerns. The response from management continued to include a culture of negative or retaliatory responses, the NRC said..

The discovery in the fall that TVA's work culture continued to include negative responses to safety concerns despite a previous round of corrective orders issued in 2009 to address the same problem was a disappointment, said NRC Region II Administrator Cathy Haney. “We were disappointed that the 2009 order had not been followed completely,” she said. “But we believe this new order gives TVA a well-defined path to ensuring the existence of a safety conscious work environment at all its nuclear sites.”

The new actions ordered, which include changes to be made at the utility's corporate offices, involve communication “more communications, such as video-briefing for all employees and contractors who perform NRC-regulated activities and an all-hands meeting at every site,” the NRC said. “Further training on NRC employee protection, nuclear safety culture and work environment policies; changes in work processes to ensure a safety conscious work environment is established and maintained; and independent audits and assessments to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the actions,” the regulatory agency said.

The regulator and the utility agreed in June that the issue was a significant one for the company, but agreed to a no-fine solution to the problems, centering on the corrective actions, many of which are time-sensitive, involving specific completion dates and periodic inspections for monitoring compliance, the NRC said.

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