Challenges Confronting NRC In a Changing Regulatory Environment
GAO-01-707T, May 8, 2001
This testimony discusses the challenges facing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as it moves from its traditional regulatory approach to a risk-informed, performance-based approach. GAO found that NRC's implementation of a risk-informed approach for commercial nuclear power plants is a complex, multiyear undertaking that requires basic changes to the regulations and processes NRC uses to ensure the safe operation of these plants. NRC needs to overcome several inherent difficulties as it seeks to apply a risk-informed regulatory approach to the nuclear material licensees, particularly in light of the large number of licensees and the diversity of activities they conduct. NRC will have to demonstrate that it is meeting its mandate (under the Government Performance and Results Act) of increasing public confidence in NRC as an effective regulator. NRC also faces challenges in human capital management, such as replacing a large percentage of its technical staff and senior managers who are eligible to retire. NRC has developed a five-year plan to identify and maintain the core competencies it needs and has identified legislative options to help resolve its aging staff problem.