Reporting Unscheduled Events at Commercial Nuclear Facilities:

Opportunities To Improve Nuclear Regulatory Commission Oversight

EMD-79-16: Published: Jan 26, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1979.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates the construction and operation of nuclear powerplants and other facilities and the possession, use, and disposal of nuclear materials to protect the public from radiation hazards. To oversee these activities, the Commission relies on information obtained in reports from licensees. The Commission uses these reports to: (1) identify safety-related incidents and problems; (2) assist in making safety-related decisions; and (3) disseminate information to the public on the nuclear industry's operating experiences. GAO reviewed the Commission's program for collecting and evaluating these reports.

The Commission needs to improve its licensee report assessment procedures to better assure that it is identifying and acting on all safety-related problems. For example, the Commission's review of reported events following its discovery of a safety related problem at two operating nuclear powerplants revealed that the problem had been widespread for sometime. Better assessment procedures may have enabled the Commission to identify this problem earlier.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: To provide the Commission with reasonable assurance that it promptly identifies all safety-related problems from licensee event and/or incident reports, the Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, should: (1) define the scope and frequency of required analyses, and documentation and disposition procedures, for staff use in assessing licensee event reports; and (2) establish a system for controlling and evaluating incident reports with clearly defined objectives, responsibilities, requirements for analyses, and administrative procedures. In addition, event and incident reporting requirements should be extended to require: (1) uniform surveillance and reporting requirements on safety systems and components common to all nuclear powerplants; (2) nuclear materials licensees using equipment containing hazardous radioactive materials to report equipment design deficiencies and malfunctions; and (3) medical licencees to report all misadministrations of patient radiation treatments and radioactive drugs. GAO also believes that rulemaking procedures should be used to decide the issue of mandating full nuclear industry participation in the industry's voluntary reliability report system.

    Agency Affected:


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