Problems and Delays Overshadow NRC's Initial Success in Improving Reactor Operators' Capabilities

RCED-83-4: Published: Dec 15, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1982.

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GAO discussed Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) actions to improve reactor capabilities which were found deficient by numerous investigations following the accident at the Three Mile Island (TMI) Nuclear Powerplant.

GAO found that, within 2 years of the TMI accident, NRC required and utilities implemented several actions to improve and strengthen the training and qualifications of reactor operators and other key control room personnel. These were interim solutions to the problems identified by the TMI investigation, and GAO believes that in the short term these actions resulted in improved safety at nuclear powerplants. After initial actions were taken, NRC efforts in this area began to lose momentum and implementation problems and delays started to occur. The impact of the NRC implementation problems may have been lessened by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which assumed a leadership role in assuring that the capabilities of control room personnel were improved in accordance with the NRC Action Plan. INPO is currently performing the first step of the long-term NRC program, a generic position task analysis for key personnel, and eventually plans to complete many programs similar to long-term NRC actions, which are currently behind schedule. NRC is monitoring INPO work and is revising its schedule for completion of tasks to correspond with INPO timeframes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, NRC, should develop a specific agreement for coordinating NRC and INPO activities related to operator training and qualification, which will permit NRC to keep abreast of the direction, quality, and progress of the work of INPO while recognizing the sensitive relationship between NRC and INPO.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The National Waste Policy Act of 1982, P.L. 97-425, mandates NRC to implement a nuclear power operator training qualification program within 1 year of the act or January 7, 1983, and it has already done so.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, NRC, should review all revised training programs developed by the utilities, correct any deficiencies before approving the programs for implementation, and audit the implementation of these programs within 1 year from the date of implementation to ensure that they are providing effective training to key control room personnel.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission


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