Nuclear Plant Operators Getting Flexibility on Fatigue Rule

NRC published an amendment to its fitness-for-duty rule, making it effective Aug. 22.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently approved an amendment to its fitness-for-duty rule that gives nuclear power plant operators more flexibility in determining when employees must be given time off from work. The current fitness-for-duty regulations (10 CFR Part 26) went into effect in March 2008 and limit work hours to ensure workers' fatigue does not affect plants' safety and security. The amendment offers an option for how licensees can manage worker fatigue over extended periods of time.

It will take effect Aug. 22.

The regulations require licensees to manage "cumulative fatigue" primarily by providing workers with a minimum number of days off within certain time frames. Last year, two petitions were filed about the rule, and the nuclear industry asked the agency to allow plants more flexibility in meeting it. NRC held three public meetings and asked for public comments on a proposed amendment earlier this year.

The commission heard from maintenance, operations, and security workers; unions; and vendors who spoke of the unintended consequences of the minimum days off requirements, according to NRC's July 21 announcement that the amendment had been approved.

It allows, but does not require, an alternative approach to the minimum days off requirements. The alternate approach still limits the number of consecutive extended work weeks an individual can work but allows more flexibility in its application, according to the announcement.

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