Safety is considered to be an inviolable constraint and part of the social contract under which nuclear plants are allowed to operate. The shared responsibilities for nuclear plant safety are described in Sidebar 7.1.
For purposes of this report, safety culture is perhaps best understood as those organizational processes that ultimately influence and reinforce an organizational culture that emphasizes safety. Taken together, these processes create a continuous desire for improvement that is fueled by individuals who, in turn, find motivation from the organization’s safety culture (Guldenmund, 2010).
The safety culture concept was first applied to the nuclear power industry by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG, 1986). The term was used to explain how the lack of knowledge about risk and safety and failure to act appropriately contributed to the Chernobyl accident. According to this group (INSAG, 1992, pp. 23-24), the Chernobyl accident was caused by a “deficient safety culture at Chernobyl and throughout the Soviet design, operating and regulatory organizations.”
The use of the term by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) developed from a 1989 policy statement issued in response to unprofessional conduct and operator inattentiveness in nuclear plant control rooms (USNRC, 1989). The statement stresses that management at nuclear power plants
has a duty and obligation to foster the development of a “safety culture” at each facility and provide a professional work environment in the control room and throughout the facility. (p. 3425)
The USNRC published a formal safety culture policy statement in 2011. That statement defines a nuclear safety culture as the
core values and behaviors resulting from a collective commitment by leaders and individuals to emphasize safety over competing goals to ensure protection of people and the environment. (USNRC, 2011b)
The USNRC has taken the position that safety culture applies to all licensees, including nuclear plant operators.
The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO; see Sidebar 7.2) has published guidance on the nuclear safety culture for the U.S. power industry (INPO, 2013). That guidance notes that
nuclear safety is a collective responsibility. The concept of nuclear safety culture applies to every employee in the nuclear organization, from the