[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 146 (Friday, July 30, 1999)]
[Notices]
[Pages 41474-41476]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-19574]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[NUREG-1600, Revision 1]


Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions; Interim 
Enforcement Policy Regarding Enforcement Discretion for Nuclear Power 
Plants During the Year 2000 Transition

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Policy statement; amendment.

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SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is amending its 
``General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement 
Actions,'' NUREG-1600, Revision 1 (Enforcement Policy), by adding 
Appendix E. This amendment adds an interim enforcement policy that the 
NRC will follow to exercise enforcement discretion for noncompliance 
with license conditions, including technical specifications (TSs), 
because of year 2000 (Y2K) related situations.

DATES: This action is effective August 30, 1999. Comments on this 
revision should be submitted within 30 days of publication in the 
Federal Register and will be considered by the NRC prior to the next 
Enforcement Policy revision.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to David L. Meyer, Chief, Rules and 
Directives Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of 
Administration, Mail Stop T-6 D59, 
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. Hand 
deliver comments to 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, between 
7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., Federal workdays. Copies of comments received 
may be examined at the NRC Public Document Room, 2120 L Street, NW, 
(Lower Level), Washington, DC.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Richard Wessman, Deputy Director, 
Division of Engineering, 301-415-3298, or Allen Hansen, Lead Project 
Manager, Division of Licensing, Project Management, 301-415-1390, 
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Y2K-related events arise from a date-related problem that is 
experienced by a software system, a software application, or a digital 
device at a key rollover date when the system, application, or device 
does not perform its intended function. The key rollover dates are 
January 1, 2000; February 29, 2000 (an uncommon leap day); and December 
31, 2000 (the 366th day of an uncommon leap year). The nuclear utility 
industry is engaged in Y2K readiness programs at all nuclear power 
plant facilities to seek out and correct Y2K-related problems that have 
any potential to adversely affect facility operations.
    Y2K concerns result from licensees' reliance upon:
    (1) Software to schedule maintenance and technical specification 
surveillances;
    (2) Programmable logic controllers and other commercial off-the-
shelf software and hardware;
    (3) Digital process control systems;
    (4) Software to support facility operation;
    (5) Digital systems for collection of operating data; and
    (6) Digital systems to monitor post-accident plant conditions.
    It is recognized that in spite of every reasonable effort by 
licensees to identify and correct Y2K computer system problems at their 
facilities, some software, applications, equipment, and systems may 
remain susceptible to the problem. Additionally, software, data, and 
systems external to the facility could adversely affect the facility 
(for example, interruption of communications or partial loss of offsite 
power).
    The electricity production and delivery systems, as two of the more 
important elements of the North American economic and social 
infrastructure, must remain dependable during Y2K transition or 
rollover periods. Most other critical elements of the infrastructure 
depend on the availability of an interconnected, stable, and reliable 
supply of electrical power. There is no doubt that cascading or even 
localized outages of generators and transmission facilities could have 
serious short-term and long-term consequences.
    Continued safe operation of nuclear power plants during Y2K 
transition or rollover periods will play a major role in maintaining 
stable and reliable electrical power supply systems, providing 
necessary reserve power if there are major losses at other generating 
facilities. The NRC staff is issuing interim guidance on the process 
for the NRC to exercise enforcement discretion in certain situations 
where power reactor licensees encounter Y2K-associated compliance 
problems in the Y2K transition period (December 31, 1999, through the 
first few days of 2000) or in other key rollover periods. The exercise 
of enforcement discretion may support a licensee decision to keep the

[[Page 41475]]

plant in operation, if the licensee has determined that safety will not 
be unacceptably affected, in order to help maintain electrical grid 
stability and reliability. The NRC Headquarters Operations Center and 
the NRC Region IV Incident Response Center will have staff augmented 
during the key transition from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, 
to ensure that appropriate actions can be taken for any regulatory 
issues that arise.

Scope

    This interim enforcement policy provides for the exercise of 
enforcement discretion to address noncompliance with license 
conditions, including TSs, because of Y2K transition or rollover 
issues. The interim enforcement policy applies to situations in which 
plant operation is needed to help maintain the stability and 
reliability of the electrical power supply system, even when license 
conditions, including TSs, would require a plant shutdown. If such 
situations occur, licensees are expected to follow the existing 
guidance in NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 for Notices of Enforcement 
Discretion <http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/IM/noed.html> to the maximum extent 
practicable, particularly regarding a safety determination and 
notification of NRC. Licensees may decide to continue operations upon 
making a determination that it is safe and prudent to do so to help 
maintain electrical grid stability and reliability, and when certain 
criteria are met. This enforcement discretion does not extend to 
situations in which the licensee may be unable to communicate with the 
NRC. (The staff assessment of telecommunications capability indicates 
that a loss of all telecommunications between NRC and licensees is 
highly unlikely.)
    To the extent noncompliance was involved, the NRC staff will 
normally take enforcement action for the root causes that led to the 
noncompliance for which enforcement discretion was used. Enforcement 
action will also be considered in those cases in which incorrect or 
incomplete information was provided to the NRC staff by a licensee in 
its justification. The NRC recognizes that a licensee will need to 
exercise judgement in making a determination under this discretion 
provision. Consistent with the NRC's position involving 10 CFR 
50.54(x), enforcement action for a violation of a license condition, 
including a TS, will not be taken unless a licensee's action was 
clearly unreasonable considering all the relevant circumstances. 
Enforcement action could include the assessment of civil penalties and 
the issuance of orders.

Paperwork Reduction Act Statement

    This interim policy statement does not contain a new or amended 
information collection requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction 
Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). Existing requirements were 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget, approval number 3150-
0136.

Public Protection Notification

    If a means used to impose an information collection does not 
display a currently valid OMB control number, the NRC may not conduct 
or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, the information 
collection.
    The NRC is revising the NRC Enforcement Policy by adding Appendix E 
to read as follows:

General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions

* * * * *

Appendix E: Interim Enforcement Policy Regarding Enforcement Discretion 
for Nuclear Power Plants During the Year 2000 Transition

    This appendix sets forth the interim enforcement policy that 
will govern the exercise of enforcement discretion by the NRC staff 
when licensees of operating nuclear power plants find it necessary 
to deviate from license conditions, including technical 
specifications (TSs), in those cases in which year 2000 (Y2K) 
related complications would otherwise require a plant shutdown that 
could adversely affect the stability and reliability of the 
electrical power grid. This policy does not extend to situations in 
which a licensee may be unable to communicate with the NRC.
    The policy is effective August 30, 1999 and will remain in 
effect through January 1, 2001. This policy only applies during Y2K 
transition or rollover periods (December 31, 1999, through January 
3, 2000; February 28, 2000, through March 1, 2000; and December 30, 
2000, through January 1, 2001). During these periods, a licensee may 
contact the NRC Headquarters Operations Center and seek NRC 
enforcement discretion with regard to the potential noncompliance 
with license conditions, including TSs, if the licensee has 
determined that:
    (a) Complying with license conditions, including TSs, in a Y2K-
related situation would require a plant shutdown;
    (b) Continued plant operation is needed to help maintain a 
reliable and stable grid; and
    (c) Any decrease in safety as a result of continued plant 
operation is small (considering both risk and deterministic 
aspects), and reasonable assurance of public health and safety, the 
environment, and security is maintained with the enforcement 
discretion.
    Licensees are expected to follow the existing guidance as stated 
in NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 for Notices of Enforcement 
Discretion to the maximum extent practicable, particularly regarding 
a safety determination and notification of NRC. A licensee seeking 
NRC enforcement discretion must provide a written justification, or 
in circumstances in which good cause is shown, an oral justification 
followed as soon as possible by written justification. The 
justification must document the need and safety basis for the 
request and provide whatever other information the NRC staff needs 
to make a decision regarding whether the exercise of discretion is 
appropriate. The NRC staff may grant enforcement discretion on the 
basis of balancing the public health and safety or common defense 
and security of not operating against potential radiological or 
other hazards associated with continued operation, and a 
determination that safety will not be unacceptably affected by 
exercising the discretion. The Director of the Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, or designee, will advise the licensee whether 
the NRC has approved the licensee's request and, if so, will 
subsequently confirm the exercise of discretion in writing. 
Enforcement discretion will only be exercised if the NRC staff is 
clearly satisfied that the action is consistent with protecting 
public health and safety and is warranted in the circumstances 
presented by the licensee.
    If the volume of requests to the NRC Headquarters Operations 
Center is such that the NRC staff cannot review and approve all 
licensee requests in a timely fashion, the NRC staff will obtain the 
safety-significant information from the licensee to enable the NRC 
staff to make a prompt initial assessment. Unless the assessment is 
unfavorable, the licensee would be permitted to proceed with its 
planned course of action. The NRC staff will complete these 
assessments as time permits and the licensee will be advised of the 
results orally, if possible, and then in writing. If the NRC staff's 
prompt initial assessment or subsequent assessment determines that a 
licensee's actions raise safety concerns, the licensee would be so 
informed. The licensee would then be required to follow its license 
conditions, including TSs.
    If there are communications difficulties between the licensee 
and the NRC, the licensee is encouraged to interact with the NRC 
inspector onsite who will have a dedicated satellite telephone. The 
inspector should be able to facilitate communication with the NRC 
Headquarters Operations Center and/or the NRC Regional Incident 
Response Centers (IRCs). If communication with the NRC Headquarters 
Operations Center is not possible, then the licensee should contact 
the IRC in NRC Region IV to discuss enforcement discretion. 
Similarly, if the Region IV IRC cannot be reached, then the licensee 
should attempt to contact the Region I, II and III IRCs. Although it 
is considered highly unlikely, if communication with NRC is not 
possible, the licensee should follow the plant license conditions, 
including technical specifications.
    In conducting its assessments, the licensee should follow, to 
the extent practicable, the guidance in NRC Inspection Manual Part 
9900 for Notices of Enforcement Discretion.

[[Page 41476]]

Contrary to Part 9900 Section B.3 guidance, it is not necessary for 
an emergency to be declared by a government entity. Licensees are 
encouraged to contact NRC early in their evaluation process, 
particularly if time is of the essence, even though complete 
information as specified in Part 9900 may not be available.
    The decision to exercise enforcement discretion does not change 
the fact that the licensee will be in noncompliance nor does it 
imply that enforcement discretion is being exercised for any 
noncompliance that may have led to the noncompliance at issue. To 
the extent noncompliance was involved, the NRC staff will normally 
take enforcement action for the root causes that led to the 
noncompliance for which enforcement discretion was granted. 
Enforcement action will also be considered in those cases in which 
incorrect or incomplete information was provided to the NRC staff by 
a licensee in its justification. The NRC recognizes that a licensee 
will need to exercise judgement in making a determination under this 
discretion provision. Consistent with the NRC's position involving 
10 CFR 50.54(x), enforcement action for a violation of a license 
condition, including a TS, will not be taken unless a licensee's 
action was clearly unreasonable considering all the relevant 
circumstances. Enforcement action could include assessment of civil 
penalties and the issuance of orders.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 26th day of July, 1999.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Annette L. Vietti-Cook,
Secretary of the Commission.
[FR Doc. 99-19574 Filed 7-29-99; 8:45 am]
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