Nuclear Powerplant Licensing:

Need for Additional Improvements

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

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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.

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