Elimination of Immediate Notification Requirements for Nonemergency Events

CourtNuclear Regulatory Commission
Citation86 FR 44290
Record Number2021-17244
Publication Date12 Aug 2021
Federal Register, Volume 86 Issue 153 (Thursday, August 12, 2021)
[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 153 (Thursday, August 12, 2021)]
                [Proposed Rules]
                [Pages 44290-44296]
                From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
                [FR Doc No: 2021-17244]
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                NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                10 CFR Part 50
                [Docket No. PRM-50-116; NRC-2018-0201]
                Elimination of Immediate Notification Requirements for
                Nonemergency Events
                AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
                ACTION: Petition for rulemaking; consideration in the rulemaking
                process.
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                SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will consider in
                its rulemaking process issues raised in a petition for rulemaking
                (PRM), dated August 2, 2018, submitted by Mr. Bill Pitesa on behalf of
                the Nuclear Energy Institute. The petition was docketed by the NRC on
                November 20, 2018, and assigned Docket No. PRM-50-116. The petitioner
                requested that the NRC amend its regulations to eliminate immediate
                notification requirements for nonemergency events for operating nuclear
                power reactors. The NRC will evaluate the current requirements and
                guidance for immediate notification of nonemergency events for
                operating nuclear power reactors, assess whether the requirements
                present an unnecessary reporting burden, and if they do, determine
                whether reporting can be reduced or eliminated that does not have a
                commensurate safety benefit.
                DATES: The docket for the petition for rulemaking, PRM-50-116, is
                closed on August 12, 2021.
                ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2018-0201 when contacting the
                NRC about the availability of information for this action. You may
                obtain publicly available information related to this action by any of
                the following methods:
                 Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2018-0201 or the
                future rulemaking Docket ID NRC-2020-0036. Address questions about NRC
                dockets to Dawn Forder; telephone: 301-415-3407; email:
                [email protected]. For technical questions, contact the individual
                listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document.
                 NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System
                (ADAMS): You may obtain publicly available documents online in the
                ADAMS Public Documents collection at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, select ``Begin Web-Based ADAMS
                Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public
                Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, at 301-415-4737,
                or by email to [email protected]. For the convenience of the reader,
                instructions about obtaining materials referenced in this document are
                provided in the ``Availability of Documents'' section.
                 Attention: The PDR, where you may examine and order copies
                of public documents, is currently closed. You may submit your request
                to the PDR via email at [email protected] or call 1-800-397-4209
                between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, except
                Federal holidays.
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Doyle, Office of Nuclear
                Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
                Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-3748, email:
                [email protected].
                SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
                Table of Contents
                I. The Petition
                II. Public Comments on the Petition
                III. Reasons for Consideration
                IV. Availability of Documents
                V. Conclusion
                I. The Petition
                 Section 2.802 of title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10
                CFR), ``Petition for rulemaking--requirements for filing,'' provides an
                opportunity for any person to petition the Commission to issue, amend,
                or rescind any regulation. The NRC received and docketed a PRM dated
                August 2, 2018, filed by Mr. Bill Pitesa on behalf of the Nuclear
                Energy Institute (NEI). The NRC assigned this PRM the docket number of
                PRM-50-116. On November 20, 2018 (83 FR 58509), the NRC published a
                notice of docketing and request for comment on PRM-50-116 in the
                Federal Register. The petitioner requests that the NRC revise its
                regulations in 10 CFR 50.72, ``Immediate notification requirements for
                operating nuclear power reactors,'' to remove the current requirement
                for licensees to immediately report nonemergency events that occur at
                operating nuclear power reactors. The petitioner states that licensees
                currently have procedures for responding to nonemergency events and
                ensuring that NRC resident inspectors are notified of nonemergency
                events independent of the requirements in Sec. 50.72. The petitioner
                did not request removal of Sec. 50.72 in its entirety, only the
                nonemergency notification requirements in Sec. 50.72(b). The
                petitioner believes that ``duplicative notifications under Sec. 50.72
                serve no safety function and are not needed to prevent or minimize
                possible injury to the public or to allow the NRC to take necessary
                action.''
                 The petitioner suggests that in lieu of the currently required
                notifications, the NRC should establish guidance for the resident
                inspectors that provides consistent and standard expectations for using
                the existing communication protocols that the petitioner claims have
                proven to be effective for communicating from the site to the resident
                inspectors and, from there, to NRC management.
                II. Public Comments on the Petition
                 On November 20, 2018, the NRC requested comments from the public on
                the petition and posed five specific questions to gain a better
                understanding of the scope and basis for the issues raised by the
                petitioner. The comment period ended on February 4, 2019, and the NRC
                received 16 public comments. Eleven comments (from NEI and nuclear
                power reactor licensees) supported the petition, one comment (from two
                private citizens) partially supported the petition, two comments (from
                a private citizen and a nongovernmental organization) opposed the
                petition, and two comments (from private citizens) were out of scope.
                The following is a summary of the comments organized by the specific
                questions in the notice of docketing.
                 In the first question, the NRC requested feedback on how
                stakeholders review and use the information contained in nonemergency
                event notifications, and how they would be affected if all nonemergency
                event notifications were eliminated. Two private citizens stated that
                they do not regularly review notifications on the NRC's website, but
                the information may be beneficial to maintain for public review. The
                same commenters supported the removal of redundancies in communication
                and suggested that the NRC maintain only those Sec. 50.72 requirements
                that do not have a corresponding Sec. 50.73, ``Licensee event report
                system'' report so the public is kept informed.
                 Several industry commenters also responded to this question. While
                their comments varied regarding the level of
                [[Page 44291]]
                regular review of nonemergency event notifications, the consensus was
                that their organizations would not be adversely impacted by the
                elimination of the nonemergency reporting requirements of Sec. 50.72.
                Several industry commenters stated that their primary sources of
                operating experience are Sec. 50.73 licensee event reports (LERs), NRC
                inspection reports, NRC generic communications, and the Institute for
                Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) operating experience database. Several
                commenters also stated that Sec. 50.72 event notifications are of
                little value because they do not contain sufficient information on
                which to base follow-up or corrective actions.
                 The second NRC question requested feedback on whether the public
                release of Sec. 50.73 LERs alone meets the needs of the public and
                noted the three Sec. 50.72 reporting requirements that do not have a
                corresponding Sec. 50.73 LER. Two private citizens and a
                nongovernmental organization agreed that the NRC should retain those
                nonemergency event notifications that do not have a corresponding Sec.
                50.73 LER. For the remaining reporting requirements, the public
                comments were divided. Two private citizens suggested that redundant
                reporting requirements should be eliminated, and a third private
                citizen preferred maintaining the status quo for nonemergency event
                notifications. A nongovernmental organization stated that notification
                of plant shutdown, deviation from technical specifications, degraded
                conditions (i.e., safety barriers), unanalyzed conditions, and system
                actuation should continue because the seriousness of some conditions
                may not be readily apparent.
                 Several industry members also provided comments in response to this
                question. In general, the industry commenters agreed that the
                information in the Sec. 50.73 LERs provides more detail and context
                than Sec. 50.72 event notifications. The commenters also concluded
                that generally, additional information beyond the Sec. 50.73 LER
                (e.g., from the INPO operating experience database) is necessary to
                meet the information needs of the industry in order to determine
                applicability and take corrective actions.
                 The third NRC question requested that stakeholders identify, from
                their perspectives, the most burdensome provisions in Sec. 50.72. The
                NRC received several responses from members of the industry on this
                topic. Several commenters repeated concerns raised by the petition. In
                addition, the commenters provided additional insight to the potential
                burdens of the nonemergency reporting requirements of Sec. 50.72.
                Specifically, one commenter expressed a concern that the training
                required to make infrequent event notifications detracts from training
                in other areas. Another commenter stated that subjective terms in the
                regulation, such as ``seriously'' (Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(ii)(A)),
                ``significantly'' (Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(ii)(B)), or ``could'' (Sec.
                50.72(b)(3)(v)) foster strenuous debates within the licensee
                organization or between the licensee and the NRC. One commenter
                estimated that approximately 30 to 40 evaluations per licensee are
                performed per year and determined not to be reportable under Sec.
                50.72.
                 The fourth NRC question directly asked if stakeholders agree with
                the petitioner's assertion that Sec. 50.72 nonemergency notifications
                are contrary to the best interests of the public and are contrary to
                the stated purpose of the regulation. The comments received from
                members of the public generally disagreed with the petitioner's
                assertion. Comments received from industry agreed with the petitioner's
                assertion.
                 The fifth NRC question requested feedback from stakeholders on
                potential alternatives to the petitioner's proposed changes that would
                address the concerns raised in the petition while still providing
                timely event information to the NRC and the public. Most of the
                comments received were from members of the industry and did not provide
                alternative approaches to the petitioner's proposed changes to Sec.
                50.72. One commenter stated that the NRC should eliminate the reporting
                requirements of Sec. Sec. 50.72 and 50.73 on the basis that licensees
                already have access to various industry platforms in order to obtain
                pertinent operational experience information.
                 The NRC received other comments related to the petition, including
                specific comments on the basis and background of current requirements,
                the significance of a loss of safety function, and suggested
                alternatives to the timeliness requirements for submission of Sec.
                50.73 LERs.
                 The NRC reviewed the other public comments received and recommends
                consideration of these comments in the rulemaking process. The NRC uses
                the basis and background of the current requirements to inform the
                regulatory basis of any proposed rule. The staff will discuss the
                significance of the loss of a safety function in greater detail in its
                regulatory basis.
                 Regarding the suggested alternatives to the timeliness requirements
                for submission of a Sec. 50.73 LER, the staff notes that this would
                result in a significant change to the reporting requirements of Sec.
                50.73. This change may also result in the NRC receiving less
                information regarding root causes of the events reported due to the
                more stringent time demand. The NRC intends to gather additional
                stakeholder feedback on this topic in the rulemaking process.
                III. Reasons for Consideration
                 Although the petitioner requested elimination of the requirements
                for licensees to immediately report nonemergency events that occur at
                operating nuclear power plants, the underlying issue is whether the
                current nonemergency reporting requirements create an unnecessary
                reporting burden. The NRC will consider this issue in its rulemaking
                process. The NRC will evaluate the current requirements and guidance
                for immediate notification of nonemergency events for operating nuclear
                reactors, assess whether the requirements present an unnecessary
                reporting burden, and if they do, determine whether reporting can be
                reduced or eliminated that does not have a commensurate safety benefit.
                The NRC must preserve the ability to maintain situational awareness of
                significant events at nuclear power plants, and the visibility and
                openness of the event notifications to public stakeholders.
                Evaluation of Petitioner Assertions
                 Assertion 1: Sec. 50.72 is overdue for an update.
                 The petitioner states that the NRC has occasionally revised the
                notification and reporting requirements in Sec. Sec. 50.72 and 50.73
                based on accumulated operating experience to remove certain
                requirements that provided little or no safety benefit. The petitioner
                asserts that these regulations have not been updated in this manner
                since January 2001, and that the petition is based on the accumulation
                of additional operating experience.
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC agrees with this assertion. The NRC
                acknowledges that it last updated notification and reporting
                requirements in Sec. 50.72 in 2001 and that sufficient operating
                experience exists to consider an update to the reporting requirements
                in Sec. 50.72(b). The staff performed an initial evaluation of each
                reporting requirement in Sec. 50.72(b) and preliminarily determined
                that some nonemergency reporting requirements could be updated. The NRC
                agrees that the reporting requirements in Sec. 50.72(b) should be
                assessed and will evaluate each reporting requirement in its rulemaking
                process.
                [[Page 44292]]
                 Assertion 2: The Sec. 50.72 nonemergency notifications are
                redundant with resident inspectors' communications to the NRC.
                 In support of this assertion, the petitioner states that resident
                inspectors are familiar with the design and operations of nuclear power
                plants and are trained how to react to events that occur at the site,
                including when to escalate issues to NRC management. The petitioner
                also claims that NRC licensees have procedures or practices in place
                that ensure notification of the resident inspector independent of the
                requirements of Sec. 50.72, and that the nonemergency notifications
                under Sec. 50.72 serve no unique safety function.
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC disagrees with the assertion that Sec.
                50.72 nonemergency notifications to the Headquarters Operations Center
                (HOC) \1\ are redundant with resident inspectors' communications to the
                NRC. The petitioner claims that licensees have procedures in place to
                ensure that resident inspectors are informed of these types of events
                and that the reports made under Sec. 50.72 are duplicated by licensee
                verbal reports to the onsite NRC resident inspectors. The NRC notes
                that the notifications to the resident inspectors as described by the
                petitioner are voluntary initiatives performed by the licensees; the
                NRC does not require licensees to contact the resident inspector. If
                the NRC relies on voluntary practices alone to maintain awareness of
                the nonemergency events listed in Sec. 50.72(b), then there is an
                increased risk of loss of situational awareness and the ability to make
                timely decisions with adequate information. The resident inspectors may
                receive voluntary reports from licensees but may not always be
                immediately available and are not expected to perform the communication
                duties assumed by the HOC. Headquarters Operations Officers (HOOs) are
                always on call and have special knowledge and communication tools to
                enable accurate and efficient collection and dissemination of
                information for all types of facilities. In addition, every call to the
                HOO is recorded to ensure accuracy of information. Adding this burden
                to the resident inspectors could impact their ability to provide
                adequate oversight of the nonemergency events and decrease the speed
                and quality of information sharing within the NRC about nonemergency
                events. Further, reliance on the Resident Inspectors picking up the
                reporting requirement undermines the basis for the rule change as it
                would recognize that the need for the reporting is still necessary, it
                would simply shift the responsibility from the licensee to the NRC.
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                 \1\ The NRC HOC is the primary center of communication and
                coordination among the NRC, its licensees, State and Tribal
                agencies, and other Federal agencies regarding operating events
                involving nuclear reactors or materials. Located in Rockville, MD,
                the NRC HOC is staffed 24 hours a day by employees trained to
                receive and evaluate event reports and coordinate incident response
                activities.
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                 Assertion 3: The Sec. 50.72 nonemergency notifications distract
                key plant staff when they are addressing events.
                 The petitioner claims that elimination of the Sec. 50.72(b)
                nonemergency notifications requirement would provide a safety benefit
                by allowing licensees to redirect technical and engineering resources
                away from procedural reporting compliance activities and toward
                assessment and corrective action activities immediately following
                nonemergency events.
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC disagrees, in part, with this assertion. A
                wide variety of events are reportable in accordance with Sec. 50.72.
                Likewise, the amount of effort expended to determine if the event in
                question is reportable varies widely. For example, a licensee should
                know immediately if it is issuing a press release or notifying another
                government agency, which is reportable under Sec. 50.72(b)(2)(xi). The
                burden for reporting this event should be only the additional cost of
                calling the NRC HOO and reporting the event without a significant
                amount of internal deliberation by the licensee. The one-hour report
                for deviation from a technical specification in accordance with Sec.
                50.54(x) serves as an example reporting requirement that should be
                apparent to the licensee and require minimal resources to report. On
                the other hand, commenters on the petition noted that other events,
                such as unanalyzed conditions, are less apparent and require more
                resources to determine if they are reportable. The time estimates
                provided by the commenters varied significantly. The NRC also received
                public comments that question whether licensees have sufficient
                resources to respond to events if they do not have sufficient resources
                to determine if an event is reportable. This assertion also raises a
                concern that licensees do not have a sufficient understanding of the
                intent of Sec. 50.72(b).
                 To address these concerns, the NRC would need to perform additional
                analysis on each reporting requirement to determine which reporting
                requirements are creating these issues. The NRC will gather additional
                input from external stakeholders to determine the best way to resolve
                these concerns.
                 In summary, it is likely that certain reporting requirements have
                significantly more impact on licensees than others. As part of the
                rulemaking process, the NRC will hold public meetings with licensees to
                better understand which requirements cause these issues and how best to
                address them.
                 Assertion 4: The Sec. 50.72 nonemergency notifications that are
                not currently reported in a 60-day LER under Sec. 50.73 are unrelated
                to reactor safety.
                 The petitioner asserts that the three Sec. 50.72 nonemergency
                notifications that do not have a corresponding requirement for a 60-day
                LER under Sec. 50.73 are unrelated to reactor safety. These three
                requirements are Sec. 50.72(b)(2)(xi), involving a news release or
                notification to another government agency; Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xii),
                involving the transport of a radioactively contaminated person to an
                offsite medical facility; and Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xiii), involving a
                major loss of emergency assessment capability, offsite response
                capability, or offsite communications capability.
                 The petitioner states that the first two requirements are
                essentially ``courtesy calls,'' and resident inspectors can handle
                them. The petitioner claims that Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xiii) is a good
                example of a burdensome regulation that distracts licensee managers
                from the problems at hand. The petitioner claims that resident
                inspectors will be aware of these types of emergency preparedness
                problems. Furthermore, the petitioner claims that issues reported under
                Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xiii) will be captured in the licensee's corrective
                action program, reviewed by the resident inspector, and, as
                appropriate, captured in a subsequent quarterly inspection report that
                is made available to the public.
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC disagrees, in part, with this assertion.
                The petitioner correctly points out the three kinds of Sec. 50.72
                event notifications that have no corresponding requirement for a LER
                pursuant to Sec. 50.73. The NRC believes that these reports are
                important for other reasons not identified by the petitioner. Although
                the Sec. 50.72(b)(2)(xi) and (3)(xii) events do not directly impact
                reactor safety, the Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xiii) notification allows the NRC
                to confirm that reasonable assurance of public health and safety and
                the common defense and security is maintained by quickly evaluating and
                ensuring that the licensee maintains its ability to effectively
                implement the emergency response plan or that the
                [[Page 44293]]
                licensee has taken or is taking the appropriate compensatory measures
                to ensure the emergency plan can still be effectively implemented. The
                NRC may need to take immediate action in response to these events. For
                example, a major loss of assessment capability, without adequate
                compensatory measures put in place, could degrade or prevent a
                licensee's ability to successfully implement its emergency response
                plan and negatively affect the NRC's reasonable assurance
                determination. The NRC needs to be able to quickly assess the impact of
                the loss of assessment capability as well as the adequacy of the
                compensatory measure(s) put in place to address the loss, to allow for
                timely engagement with the licensee, if required.
                 The number of event reports under Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xiii) dropped
                significantly after NRC endorsement of NEI 13-01, ``Reportable Action
                Levels for Loss of Emergency Preparedness Capabilities,'' dated July
                2014 in Supplement 1 to NUREG-1022, Revision 3, dated September 2014.
                Prior to the endorsement of NEI 13-01, the NRC received on the order of
                hundreds of reports per year under this requirement. After the
                endorsement of NEI 13-01, the NRC now receives approximately 50-60
                reports per year. As explained in the statement of considerations for
                the 2000 final rule amending Sec. 50.72, ``Reporting Requirements for
                Nuclear Power Reactors and Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installations
                at Power Reactor Sites; Final Rule'' (65 FR 63769, 63774; October 25,
                2000), the 8-hour reports, such as Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xii) through
                (xiii), are for ``events where there may be a need for the NRC to take
                an action within about a day, such as initiating a special inspection
                or investigation.'' If the NRC accepts the petitioner's suggested
                changes and relies solely on licensees' voluntary calls to the resident
                inspectors, then the NRC may not be able to take appropriate action in
                a timely manner. The current requirements in Sec. 50.72 establish
                timeliness requirements for notifying the NRC. If the NRC removed these
                requirements, then licensees would instead provide voluntary reports to
                resident inspectors based on each licensee's procedures, which may or
                may not impose timeliness expectations for notification of the resident
                inspector. For example, event response for nonemergency events could be
                delayed several days if an event, such as an actuation of the reactor
                protection system, occurs on a Friday night, and the resident inspector
                is not informed until Monday morning. Such a delay may impact the
                agency's ability to determine the appropriate response to an event in a
                timely manner. If, due to the delay in reporting, the NRC is delayed in
                this assessment and in potentially taking responsive action, public
                health and safety could be affected.
                 In addition, it may not be readily apparent to the public how the
                NRC communicates and utilizes information received under these
                reporting requirements. The HOO communicates this information to all
                the interested internal NRC stakeholders when these reports are made.
                The reports in Sec. 50.72(b)(2)(xi) and (b)(3)(xii) are of particular
                interest to the agency in that they ensure that the NRC is aware of
                communications made to other agencies and is kept informed of
                situations that are of high public interest (i.e., news releases and
                transport of contaminated personnel). An important factor for event
                notifications under Sec. 50.72(b)(3)(xii) is the potential for
                radioactive materials on the contaminated individual to be removed from
                the site and distributed outside of the radioactivity-controlled area.
                 The petitioner claims that reports made under Sec. 50.72(b)(2)(xi)
                and (b)(3)(xii) are essentially ``courtesy calls'' made to the NRC. The
                NRC notes that by the petitioner's own admission, licensees expend
                minimal effort to notify the NRC if a news release or notification to
                another government agency is made. In these cases, the reportability of
                these events should be readily apparent to the licensee and, therefore,
                cause little administrative burden beyond that of a call to the NRC
                HOO.
                 Regarding the claim that resident inspectors can handle these
                ``courtesy calls,'' in addition to the previous discussion regarding
                delayed communication, communicating these events only to the resident
                inspector could alter the direct and efficient communication structure
                via the HOO and replace it with an indirect structure that is less
                efficient at disseminating information within the NRC. Moreover,
                licensee calls to the NRC HOC are recorded to ensure accuracy of
                information but, under the petitioner's proposal, licensee
                conversations with resident inspectors would not be recorded. Since the
                NRC HOC infrastructure for dissemination of this information currently
                exists, the resident inspectors could report the information to the NRC
                HOC. But this shifts the responsibility of contacting the HOC from the
                licensee to the resident inspectors. In addition, the NRC HOC
                procedures would need to be updated to address any issues associated
                with this change, and the NRC would need to develop guidance for the
                resident inspectors to communicate nonemergency events to the NRC HOC.
                These changes would incur additional costs for training and equipment
                and may result in inconsistencies in the quality and timeliness of
                information about these events being shared within the NRC. This could
                potentially delay the NRC in the performance of its regulatory
                functions. The concerns with additional burden on resident inspectors
                if they are expected to communicate issues within the NRC are provided
                in the NRC's evaluation of Assertion 2.
                 The NRC needs to preserve the ability to respond effectively to
                events, maintain situational awareness, provide proper regulatory
                oversight, and maintain credibility with the public. The NRC intends to
                gather additional stakeholder feedback on this topic in the rulemaking
                process.
                 Assertion 5: The public will continue to be notified of the event
                in accordance with Sec. 50.73.
                 The petitioner states that the fuller descriptions in LERs
                ``provided within 60 days, as required by 10 CFR 50.73, are available
                to the public. Given that these are nonemergency events, this is
                sufficient for transparency purposes.''
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC agrees, in part, with this assertion. The
                petitioner's claim that the public will be notified of the event in
                accordance with Sec. 50.73 is correct, with the exception of the three
                reporting requirements in Sec. 50.72, as discussed in Assertion 4,
                that do not have a corresponding reporting requirement in Sec. 50.73:
                Sec. 50.72(b)(2)(xi), (b)(3)(xii), and (b)(3)(xiii). For these
                reports, the NRC disagrees that the reporting requirements of Sec.
                50.73 are sufficient for the purposes of public transparency.
                 The NRC agrees with the petitioner's statement that LERs contain
                ``fuller,'' or more complete, descriptions of the reported event. The
                requirements of Sec. 50.73 contain more detail regarding required
                content than the event notification requirements in Sec. 50.72. The
                LERs generally contain a much more descriptive narrative of the event
                and the failure mechanisms involved.
                 In addition, the NRC received several public comments regarding
                timeliness of LERs. Two private citizens expressed support for the
                petition with the caveat that Sec. 50.73 LERs should be moved to a 30-
                day reporting requirement to meet the needs of informing the public.
                However, such a significant change to the timing of the reporting
                requirements in Sec. 50.73 may increase the burden on
                [[Page 44294]]
                licensees and result in the NRC receiving less information regarding
                root causes of the events reported due to the more stringent time
                demand. Furthermore, even a 30-day reporting requirement for Sec.
                50.73 LERs would represent a significant reduction in timeliness for
                public notification compared to the current Sec. 50.72 notification
                requirements. As part of the rulemaking, the NRC will consider how it
                would continue to provide timely notification of events to the public
                if it also alters timing requirements for notifications by licensees.
                The NRC intends to gather additional stakeholder feedback on this topic
                in the rulemaking process.
                 Assertion 6: The NRC has never taken any kind of action in response
                to prompt notifications.
                 The petitioner claims that the requirement to notify the NRC within
                4 or 8 hours implies that the NRC would need to take action before the
                end of the 8-hour shift (for a 4-hour report) or soon after the shift
                turnover (for an 8-hour report). The petitioner claims that in the
                almost 40 years that this regulation has been in place, the NRC has
                never taken any kind of action in this tight timeframe to protect the
                public for one of these nonemergency events. The petitioner claims that
                there is no need for this type of prompt action, and that the NRC
                rarely dispatches inspection teams. The petitioner claims that
                notification from the resident inspector is more than sufficient for
                this kind of ``prompt action.''
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC disagrees with this assertion. The
                petitioner claims that the requirement to notify the NRC within 4 or 8
                hours implies that the NRC would need to take action before the end of
                the 8-hour shift (for a 4-hour report) or soon after the shift turnover
                (for an 8-hour report). When the NRC receives these reports, the NRC
                HOO adds the items to a database for communication in a regular morning
                email. If there are items of interest (e.g., complicated reactor
                scrams, emergency core cooling system injection) that indicate a need
                for prompt communication, the NRC HOO notifies interested NRC
                stakeholders via immediate phone calls as soon as the information from
                the event is put into the database. The NRC HOO may also issue to NRC
                management a ``HOO Highlight'' email. These events are typically
                communicated to staff and management within an hour of receipt of the
                notification.
                 There are several other actions that the NRC could take in response
                to these notifications. In the statement of considerations for the 2000
                final rule, the Commission analyzed the intent of the timeliness
                requirements in Sec. 50.72(b), and noted that the final provisions
                required 4-hour reporting, if the event was not reported in 1 hour, for
                an event or situation, related to the health and safety of the public
                or onsite personnel, or protection of the environment, for which a news
                release is planned or notification to other government agencies has
                been or will be made. The Commission stated that such an event may
                include an onsite fatality or inadvertent release of radioactively
                contaminated materials, and that this is the same as previously
                required. The Commission concluded that these reports are needed
                promptly because they involve events where there may be a need for the
                NRC to respond to heightened public concern.
                 The 2000 final rule also required 4-hour reporting, if the event
                was not reported in 1 hour, for unplanned transients. The Commission
                explained that these are events where there may be a need for the NRC
                to take a reasonably prompt action, such as partially activating its
                response plan to monitor the course of the event. For the remaining
                events reportable under Sec. 50.72, the final rule required 8-hour
                reporting, if not reported in 1 hour or 4 hours; these are events where
                there may be a need for the NRC to take an action within about a day,
                such as initiating a special inspection or investigation.
                 Since the implementation of the 2000 final rule, the NRC has taken
                various prompt actions in response to event notifications under Sec.
                50.72(b). For example, the nonemergency event notifications serve as a
                potential trigger for Management Directive (MD) 8.3, ``NRC Incident
                Investigation Program,'' evaluations, which may or may not result in a
                reactive inspection in response to the event.
                 The NRC performed a total of 140 reactive inspections from 2006 to
                2018, an average of approximately 11 reactive inspections per year. In
                the period from 2006 to 2012, the NRC performed an average of
                approximately 14 reactive inspections per year. In the period from 2013
                to 2018, the NRC performed an average of approximately 7 reactive
                inspections per year. In 2018, the NRC performed 4 reactive
                inspections. Even though the total number of reactive inspections has
                declined over the past 12 years, the NRC still performs several
                reactive inspections per year. In addition to these reactive
                inspections, there are more events for which the agency performs an MD
                8.3 evaluation. For those evaluations where baseline inspection is
                recommended (no reactive inspection), the regions occasionally dispatch
                additional inspectors to the site to respond to nonemergency events.
                There are also cases, such as the dual unit trip at the Calvert Cliffs
                Nuclear Power Plant in 2015 (Event Notification 50961), where the NRC
                performed an MD 8.3 evaluation and decided to perform a reactive
                inspection within approximately 24 hours (``Calvert Cliffs Nuclear
                Power Plant Units 1 and 2--NRC Special Inspection Report 05000317/
                2015009 and 05000318/2015009,'' dated May 27, 2015).
                 The NRC also routinely receives inquiries from reporters and
                members of the public regarding events at nuclear power stations. The
                nonemergency event notifications provide timely notification of events
                for those situations where the agency may need to respond to heightened
                public concern. For example, the Calvert Cliffs dual unit trip resulted
                in local news media coverage. Wholesale removal of these reporting
                requirements could render the agency unable to respond effectively to
                public requests for information.
                 Finally, depending on the nature of the nonemergency event, the
                agency may need to activate its response plan. At the Pilgrim Nuclear
                Power Station, winter storm Juno in January 2015 caused a loss-of-
                offsite power that caused a reactor trip (see Event Notification
                50769). Then, about 10 hours later, a second event notification, 50771,
                was made due to complications with the plant response and failed
                mitigating systems. At that point, the NRC's Incident Response Center
                entered into Monitoring mode for this complicated event even though
                emergency plan activation criteria were not met.
                 The petitioner claims that the NRC dispatches inspection teams for
                only 1% of nonemergency events. However, the petitioner's statement
                does not recognize the actions taken by the NRC prior to dispatching
                these inspection teams. As discussed earlier in this section, the NRC
                sends inspection teams to nuclear power plants several times a year.
                The notifications made under Sec. 50.72 serve as a potential trigger
                for the resident inspectors and regional staff to perform an MD 8.3
                evaluation. The MD 8.3 evaluation assesses an event against several
                criteria to determine if the NRC should, in response to an event, (1)
                handle the issue in the baseline inspection program, (2) dispatch a
                special inspection team to investigate the event, or (3) dispatch an
                augmented inspection team to investigate the event in greater detail.
                The NRC may initiate an MD 8.3 evaluation as soon as a report is
                received, depending on the event.
                [[Page 44295]]
                 Based on these reasons and examples, the NRC disagrees with the
                petitioner's assertion that the NRC has never taken any kind of action
                in response to these types of prompt event notifications or that these
                types of ``prompt actions'' are not needed.
                 Assertion 7: The Sec. 50.72 nonemergency notification requirements
                are contrary to the NRC's principles of good regulation, specifically
                efficiency and openness.
                 As set forth in NUREG-1614, Volume 7, ``Strategic Plan: Fiscal
                Years 2018-2022,'' the NRC's principle of efficiency states, in part,
                ``Regulatory activities should be consistent with the degree of risk
                reduction they achieve. Where several effective alternatives are
                available, the option which minimizes the use of resources should be
                adopted.'' The petitioner argues that the burden of these requirements
                is not consistent with the degree of risk reduction achieved for the
                reasons discussed in the petition. Several commenters provided
                additional details about burdens associated with these requirements,
                including developing and maintaining procedures and training, screening
                events for possible reporting, over-reporting, retracting notifications
                determined to be unnecessary, and recordkeeping. The petitioner and
                several commenters state that the limited benefit to the NRC and the
                public from these notifications is not commensurate with the time and
                resources expended. The petitioner states that there are currently two
                pathways for communicating similar information, and the more efficient
                pathway that optimizes resources and also communicates more information
                should be the one that is adopted. The petitioner believes that the
                more efficient pathway is from the licensee to a resident inspector and
                then from the resident inspector to NRC regional management.
                 Regarding the principle of openness, the petitioner states that a
                perceived benefit of the current Sec. 50.72 requirements is that
                information is provided to the public. However, the petitioner states
                that the public availability of LERs under Sec. 50.73 within 60 days
                is sufficient for transparency purposes given that these are
                nonemergency events. The NRC's response to this view is included in its
                evaluation of Assertion 5.
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC disagrees that the reporting requirements
                of Sec. 50.72 are contrary to the other principles of good
                regulations. The NRC agrees in part with the petitioner's claim that
                the reporting requirements of Sec. 50.72 should be evaluated for
                efficiency. However, as discussed previously, the reporting
                requirements vary greatly by number of reports per year and the amount
                of time licensees may spend deciding whether a specific reporting
                requirement has been met. Therefore, the NRC will consider this issue
                in its rulemaking process, where the NRC may solicit public input to
                help determine the best course of action to address the petitioner's
                concerns.
                 The NRC agrees in part that LERs meet the informational needs of
                the public, except in those cases where an event causes immediate
                heightened public concern. These cases may include press releases,
                emergency response to the site, failures or inadvertent actuation of
                emergency sirens, notification of other government agencies, or the
                transport of contaminated individuals from the site, and openness and
                efficiency is of utmost importance.
                 Regarding the principle of independence, the nonemergency reporting
                requirements in Sec. 50.72 support the concept of seeking all
                available facts and opinions from licensees. Specifically, the
                nonemergency reporting requirements support this principle in that
                licensees notify the NRC of events of interest. The intent of the rule
                is to support the capability of the NRC to make timely decisions and to
                provide adequate assurances regarding actual or potential threats to
                public health and safety. This depends heavily on the rapidity with
                which significant events are communicated by nuclear power reactor
                licensees to NRC. The NRC has an obligation to collect facts quickly
                and accurately about significant events, assess the facts, take
                necessary action, and inform the public about the extent of the threat,
                if any, to public health and safety. Notification of these nonemergency
                events in a timely manner allows the agency to perform an independent
                assessment of the event and take appropriate action, if necessary.
                 Regarding reliability, the NRC acknowledges that Sec. 50.72 has
                not been updated since 2001. During the rulemaking process, the NRC
                will evaluate the additional operating and regulatory experience gained
                since 2001 and determine if any changes are necessary to the
                nonemergency reporting requirements of Sec. 50.72.
                 Assertion 8: The purpose and objectives of Sec. 50.72 will
                continue to be fully met if the requested amendments are made.
                 The petitioner claims that the purpose and objectives of Sec.
                50.72 will continue to be fully met if the NRC grants the petitioner's
                request to remove the nonemergency reporting requirements contained in
                Sec. 50.72(b). The petitioner bases the request on the existence of
                voluntary procedures to inform resident inspectors.
                 NRC Evaluation: For the reasons listed in the responses to the
                assertions in this section of this document, the NRC disagrees in
                general that the intent of Sec. 50.72 would be fully met if the
                requested amendments were implemented as stated; however, the NRC
                intends to assess this claim in the rulemaking process to determine
                whether the NRC can eliminate any requirements within Sec. 50.72 (due
                to being unnecessarily burdensome) and still preserve the purposes and
                objectives of Sec. 50.72. The NRC needs to maintain the ability to
                respond effectively to events, maintain situational awareness, provide
                proper regulatory oversight, and preserve credibility with the public.
                 Assertion 9: Rulemaking is the preferred solution to deal with the
                petitioner's concerns.
                 NRC Evaluation: The NRC agrees, in part, that the rulemaking
                process can evaluate and potentially resolve the petitioner's
                underlying concerns associated with unnecessary burden caused by
                requirements associated with nonemergency event notifications. The NRC
                will address this issue in the rulemaking process. The NRC disagrees
                with the petitioner's proposed changes that would eliminate all
                nonemergency reporting requirements in Sec. 50.72. Rulemaking will
                enable the NRC to evaluate the reporting criteria in Sec. 50.72(b) on
                a case-by-case basis to determine if the reporting requirements should
                be modified (e.g., changing the timeliness or method of reporting
                requirements or eliminating or adding requirements). The NRC will hold
                public meetings with stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process to
                better understand which requirements have the greatest impact on
                industry and the public. It may be possible to address some of these
                concerns by clarifying regulatory guidance.
                IV. Availability of Documents
                 The documents identified in the following table are available to
                interested persons through one or more of the following methods, as
                indicated.
                [[Page 44296]]
                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 ADAMS accession No./web
                 Document link/Federal Register
                 citation
                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                PRM-50-116--Nuclear Energy Institute Petition ML18247A204.
                 to Amend 10 CFR 50.72, ``Immediate
                 Notification Requirements for Operating
                 Nuclear Power Reactors,'' August 2, 2018.
                PRM-50-116: Petition for rulemaking; notice 83 FR 58509.
                 of docketing and request for comment,
                 November 20, 2018.
                Management Directive 8.3, ``NRC Incident ML18073A200.
                 Investigation Program,'' June 25, 2014.
                NUREG-1614, Volume 7, ``Strategic Plan: ML18032A561.
                 Fiscal Years 2018-2022,'' February 2018.
                NUREG-1022, Rev 3, Supplement 1, ``Event ML14267A447.
                 Report Guidelines 10 CFR
                 50.72(b)(3)(xiii),'' September 2014.
                NEI 13-01, Rev 0, ``Reportable Action Levels ML14197A206.
                 for Loss of Emergency Preparedness
                 Capabilities,'' July 2014.
                ``Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 ML15147A354.
                 and 2--NRC Special Inspection Report
                 05000317/2015009 and 05000318/2015009,'' May
                 27, 2015.
                Event Notification Report for January 28, https://www.nrc.gov/
                 2015: EN 50769. reading-rm/doc-
                 collections/event-status/
                 event/2015/
                 20150128en.html#en50769.
                Event Notification Report for January 28, https://www.nrc.gov/
                 2015: EN 50771. reading-rm/doc-
                 collections/event-status/
                 event/2015/
                 20150128en.html#en50771.
                Event Notification Report for April 10, 2015: https://www.nrc.gov/
                 EN 50961. reading-rm/doc-
                 collections/event-status/
                 event/2015/
                 20150410en.html#en50961.
                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                V. Conclusion
                 For the reasons cited in this document, the NRC will consider the
                petition in the rulemaking process. The NRC will evaluate the current
                requirements and guidance for immediate notification of nonemergency
                events for operating nuclear power reactors, assess whether the
                requirements present an unnecessary reporting burden, and if they do,
                determine whether reporting can be reduced or eliminated that does not
                have a commensurate safety benefit.
                 The NRC tracks the status of all rules and PRMs on its website at
                https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/rulemaking/rules-petitions.html. The public may monitor the docket for the rulemaking on
                the Federal rulemaking website, https://www.regulations.gov, by
                searching on Docket ID NRC-2020-0036. Publication of this document in
                the Federal Register closes Docket ID NRC-2018-0201 for PRM-50-116.
                 Dated: August, 9, 2021.
                 For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
                Annette L. Vietti-Cook,
                Secretary of the Commission.
                [FR Doc. 2021-17244 Filed 8-11-21; 8:45 am]
                BILLING CODE 7590-01-P
                

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