The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently announced that it will hold a public meeting titled The Role of Third Parties in Access Authorization and Fitness-for-Duty Determination. The meeting will take place at NRC headquarters on November 16, 2016, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The rulemaking on this topic will eventually resolve whether third parties, or only licensees, can make final determinations on who may have unescorted access to nuclear reactor plants.

The NRC’s Access Authorization and Fitness-for-Duty Rules play an important role in the NRC’s framework by ensuring that reactor licensees have the ability to protect their facilities against security threats, including “insider” assistance. Recent confusion about arbitration’s role or other employment-related dispute resolution mechanisms has led to questions about these mechanisms’ respective roles vis-à-vis the NRC’s licensees in ensuring reactor facilities’ security.

NRC Staff currently is developing a regulatory basis document on this topic that will describe the regulatory issues implicated by third parties’ current role in access authorization determinations, review potential solutions, and recommend a course of action. The upcoming meeting will inform the NRC’s development of its draft regulatory bases, which it plans to publish in early 2017.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the topic. Two hours of the three-hour meeting are slated for public comments from various stakeholders. The meeting will discuss

  • whether a third party arbitrator’s ability to overturn a licensee’s access authorization determination poses a regulatory problem or a safety or security vulnerability,
  • solutions for any regulatory problems that may exist, and
  • the potential components of a robust appeals process and/or alternatives to third-party arbitrations that balance employee rights with a licensee’s duty to ensure trustworthiness and reliability.