As NIH radiation workers may recall, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspected the Bethesda (and Poolesville and Rockville and NIAID/IRF and Baltimore campuses) over the course of five days in May. This unannounced inspection consisted of four NRC agents, who spent the entire week in the Division of Radiation Safety (DRS) conference room as they reviewed records, Radiation Safety Committee meeting minutes, and DRS incident reports. The NRC agents also accompanied DRS health physicists to various NIH research labs and Clinical Center departments, where they interviewed NIH staff to assess their work environment and radiation safety activities.
On the last day of inspection, NIH managers attended an exit briefing where they received positive observations and appreciation for an excellent safety culture. To be sure, several recommendations for improvement were made (which DRS is following up on) but by and large the findings were positive.
The final written inspection report was received by DRS in July. As anticipated, NIH is being cited for one Notice of Violation, Severity Level IV (the lowest), which was due to administrative errors in approving two Clinical Authorized User applications for the incorrect category. Fortunately, neither physician was involved in prescribing or overseeing parenteral administrations of radioactive material in quantities requiring a written directive, so their accidental approval for this category of clinical use had no impact on safety. The violation will not be contested.
The DRS wishes to thank all NIH radiation workers for their support and involvement in this very thorough NRC inspection. While the next NRC visit is not due until 2021, DRS is confident that the intramural research program is inspection-ready at any time – even if your next "inspector" is your own DRS health physicist.