Facility Relocation:

NRC Based Its Decision to Move Its Technical Training Center on Perceived Benefits--Not Costs

GAO-01-54: Published: Oct 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 2000.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has decided to move its technical training center from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to near its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. The relocation is intended to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the agency's operations. The center provides diverse training curricula on such topics as nuclear power plant technology augmented by training on simulators, risk assessment, radiation protection, and regulatory skills. NRC used a reasonable methodology to determine the costs of relocating its facility. It considered costs related to staff salaries, travel costs for center participants, and lease payments. However, NRC used several assumptions that, if changed, would affect the cost of the move. For example, a change in the number of staff who would relocate would have an impact on costs. According to NRC, the objective of the move was not to minimize the cost of operating the center but rather to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the agency's operations. NRC believes that the move would yield many benefits, including greater access to training facilities by its headquarters staff and frequent use of simulators in investigations. NRC needs to resolve several issues to ensure the long-term efficacy of its training program, such as replacing training instructors who will be retiring in a few years.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that NRC continues to provide effective technical training, the Commissioners of NRC should direct NRC staff to identify the skills required for the staff who will replace its technical training instructors.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2001, NRC implemented a 5-year, $2.4 million effort for maintaining core competencies. According to NRC, the agency has completed a comprehensive review of the qualification and training requirements for its inspectors, the results of which largely dictate the competency areas needed within the technical training instructional staff who train them. NRC has also reviewed the existing and desired competency requirements for technical training instructors. According to NRC, the skill and competency requirements for technical training instructors, as validated by these reviews, are being used in the selection process through which retiring instructors are being replaced.

    Recommendation: To ensure that NRC continues to provide effective technical training, the Commissioners of NRC should direct NRC staff to develop a succession plan to ensure that qualified staff are available and trained to minimize the disruption of the technical training provided.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NRC, it has developed, and is implementing, a succession plan for its technical training instructional staff. During the last quarter of 2000, each instructional staff member's retirement eligibility and plans were determined. These data indicated significant competency gaps over a 2-year period, and NRC took action in advance of the earliest projected retirements. During 2001, two technical training instructor positions and one technical training project manager position were filled to offset the competency gaps that would be created by the retirements. The retirement eligibility and projected retirement timing analysis done again in September 2001, projected much less severe competency gaps. According to NRC, the retirement losses now projected for 2003 and 2005, will be ameliorated by implementation of its early replacement hiring policy.

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