Nuclear Safety:

International Assistance Efforts to Make Soviet-Designed Reactors Safer

RCED-94-234: Published: Sep 29, 1994. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on U.S. and international efforts to improve the safety of Soviet-designed reactors, focusing on the: (1) goals and scope of international assistance; (2) current and future U.S. assistance efforts; (3) impact of international assistance; and (4) potential for closing the highest-risk reactors.

GAO found that: (1) as of 1994, international donors have pledged about $785 million to improve the safety of civil nuclear power reactors in the former Soviet Union and central and eastern Europe; (2) the long term goal of international assistance is to shut down the most dangerous nuclear power reactors, replace these reactors with alternative energy sources, and improve host countries' nuclear regulatory agencies; (3) only about 7 percent of the proposed projects have been completed; (4) the United States has spent $18 million for nuclear safety improvements in Russia, Ukraine, and eastern Europe; (5) much of U.S. assistance is designed to provide training for reactor operators and nuclear regulators and fire safety and computer equipment; (6) the effectiveness of international assistance is difficult to quantify because there is a lack of reliable data on Soviet equipment; (7) some nuclear safety projects have been delayed due to contractor disputes over liability protection; (8) international assistance efforts may not result in safer reactors or the closure of the riskiest reactors and may actually encourage the continued operation of these reactors; and (9) although international agencies may encounter difficulties in promoting the closure of Soviet-designed reactors because host countries depend on nuclear power to meet their energy and export needs, the United States has agreed with Russia and Ukraine to study alternative energy options and phase out the riskiest reactors.

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