Do NRC Plans Adequately Address Regulatory Deficiencies Highlighted by the Three Mile Island Accident?

EMD-80-76: Published: May 27, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1980.

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As a result of the the numerous studies concerning the accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Powerplant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) drafted the Three Mile Island Action Plan, which includes 51 major tasks that NRC believes are necessary to respond to the many investigations and studies of the accident. In evaluating the plan and the adequacy of the NRC process for prioritizing and implementing the planned actions, 10 major tasks were selected for detailed review. These tasks represent a cross section of the 51 tasks included in the plan and include 49 actions already taken or proposed by NRC. The plan was still in draft form and changed several times during the review period.

Through the plan, NRC is implementing a massive program to upgrade safety at nuclear powerplants. The planned actions seem appropriate for this purpose. However, because the program is in its infancy, success or failure cannot be determined at this time. It appeared that NRC is stretching its resources very thinly and placing major dependency on industry and other organizations. Budget rescissions, another major accident, or future NRC mandated responsibilities could have a major impact on the successful completion of the program. GAO sanctioned the creation of the Nuclear Safety Committee to oversee the NRC activities and assess the progress being made to implement the recommendations of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island. The Committee will have five members from outside the federal government and its own technical staff and appropriations. Such independence is needed to insure compliance with important Three Mile Island recommendations and to guarantee that progress is made toward improving reactor safety. Because NRC has depended greatly on the nuclear industry, the Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee should pay particular attention to how well the industry responds. If, in the Committee's opinion, the response is not adequate, NRC should be required to reevaluate its role in seeing that the Action Plan tasks are properly implemented.

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