Nuclear Powerplant Licensing:

Need for Additional Improvements

EMD-78-29: Published: Apr 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1978.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the construction and operation of commercial nuclear power plants by establishing minimum construction and operating standards and by conducting reviews to determine if the standards are adequately understood and implemented. The reviews result in two licenses for each plant: one permitting construction and another allowing operation after construction is completed.

Improvements are needed in management of the licensing process in the following areas: (1) practices involved in imposing new regulatory requirements; (2) evaluation of data to update the regulatory process; and (3) guidance and training of reviewers. Almost 97 percent of NRC reviewers believed that power plant designs were either adequate or more conservative than necessary, but a large majority of the reviewers thought that some important safety items were not being reviewed or that time constraints limited efforts. Charges brought by NRC employees that NRC neglects safety issues, restricts staff debate, and takes reprisals against dissenters were reviewed by NRC and Congress. Most reviewers believe that they can raise dissenting issues without reprisals, but some are not sure of NRC desire to hear these issues. NRC has taken steps to streamline the licensing process and reduce the time required for licensing and construction. Also, the administration proposed legislation to increase regulatory efficiency, including the use of standardized designs and early approval of sites.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: In considering legislative proposals, Congress should require that: (1) NRC develop a method to update and certify the continued acceptability of proposed power plant sites; (2) the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards review applications which do not include plant designs approved under a formal NRC standardization program; (3) adequate public hearings be held when decisions are made that relate to the National Environmental Policy Act; and (4) NRC, before transferring the act requirements to states, ensure that their environmental programs are adequate and will not cause undue delay. The Chairman, NRC, should: (1) evaluate the need for additional staff or time in certain review areas; (2) update the licensing process and provide more thorough evaluation of proposed changes in licensing requirements; (3) provide technical reviewers with improved training and guidance; (4) expand the application of procedures for resolving technical disagreements; and (5) improve the structure of the review process.


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 20, 2018

Mar 14, 2018

Feb 28, 2018

Feb 16, 2018

Feb 6, 2018

Jan 30, 2018

Dec 7, 2017

Nov 14, 2017

Nov 1, 2017

Oct 26, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here