NRC Order Outlines TVA Corrective Actions

Issues were identified at the Watts Bar plant, but TVA has agreed to implement actions at its Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear plants and in its corporate offices.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it has issued a confirmatory order to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which has agreed to make a number of corrective actions to address safety conscious work environment issues. This stemmed from an NRC inspection last fall at the TVA Watts Bar nuclear plant near Spring City, Tenn., that found that, from November 2014 to August 2016, TVA failed to properly implement a process to ensure that adverse employment actions at the plant complied with employee protection regulations and that the actions would not negatively impact the safety conscious work environment. NRC said it determined TVA's failure was a violation of a previous confirmatory order issued in 2009 on similar issues.

The order arises from a settlement achieved under the NRC Alternative Dispute Resolution process, which was initiated at the request of TVA. A mediation session between NRC staff and TVA took place June 9 and produced a settlement -- the NRC and TVA agreed thhe matter was a significant violation of regulatory requirements but no violation or civil penalty would be issued because of the detailed corrective actions and enhancements required by the confirmatory order.

It outlines steps TVA has already taken and agreed to take going forward. Issues were identified at the Watts Bar plant, but TVA has agreed to implement actions at its Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear plants and in its corporate offices.

"The ability to raise safety issues without fear of reprisal is very important to ensuring the safety of any plant," said NRC Region II Administrator Cathy Haney. “We were disappointed that the 2009 order had not been followed completely, 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."

NRC said TVA has established an executive review process to ensure personnel actions do not constitute retaliation and has hired advisors and consultants to focus on safety culture. The company will step up its communications, such as a video briefing for all employees and contractors who perform NRC-regulated activities and an all-hands meeting at every site; provide more training on NRC employee protection, nuclear safety culture, and work environment policies; change its work processes to ensure a safety-conscious work environment is established and maintained; and obtain independent audits and assessments to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the actions. Many of the corrective actions in the order also have specific completion dates and require periodic reports to the NRC.

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