The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Investigations (OI) recently published its Office of Investigations Annual Report FY 2017, which provides an overview of OI’s activities during the past fiscal year.
Notably, the report reveals that the largest category of OI investigations continues to be discrimination cases. “Discrimination” in this context refers to retaliation for engaging in protected activities established in Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, as amended. Of the 115 OI investigations opened in FY 2017, 41 (36%) were discrimination cases. Although the number and proportion of discrimination investigations have slightly decreased from FY 2016, during which 46 (39%) of the opened cases were discrimination cases, discrimination has remained the largest case category for the past two years.
The overall breakdown of cases opened in FY 2017 is as follows:
- 41 (36%) discrimination cases
- 23 (20%) material false statement investigations
- 30 (26%) alleged violations of other NRC regulatory requirements
- 21 (18%) assists to staff
Of the 115 cases closed in FY 2017, OI substantiated willfulness for one or more of the allegations of wrongdoing in 26 investigations. The results of a number of the investigations remain under regulatory review by the NRC staff.
OI conducts investigations at both reactor and materials sites, either at the request of specific NRC officials or on its own initiative. Although the total number of OI cases opened has been declining for the past few years (138 in FY 2015, 119 in FY 2016, and 115 in FY 2017), we are seeing a greater level of scrutiny by OI at the individual case level, regardless of the complexity or nature of the investigation. In particular, we have observed an increase in the number of witnesses interviewed and documents requested.
In addition, we understand that OI is in the process of setting up an in-house polygraph program. Currently, OI requests polygraphers from other federal agencies as needed. Within the last year, however, OI has hired special agents who are trained and experienced polygraphers. Given this new in-house capability, we expect to see more requests for individuals to submit to polygraph examinations.
We counsel power and materials licensees, and their contractors, about OI investigations and will continue to closely follow developments in this area.