Department of Energy:

Clear Strategy on External Regulation Needed for Worker and Nuclear Facility Safety

T-RCED-98-205: Published: May 21, 1998. Publicly Released: May 21, 1998.

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Victor S. Rezendes
(202) 512-6082


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GAO discussed the progress being made by the Department of Energy (DOE) toward the external regulation of both worker safety and nuclear facility safety, focusing on DOE's: (1) position on external regulation; and (2) strategy for conducting pilots on external regulation.

GAO noted that: (1) over the last 5 years, DOE leadership has often stated its intention to have its facilities subject to external regulation by independent agencies in matters of worker safety and nuclear facility safety; (2) in 1996, DOE endorsed recommendations to phase out its self-regulation over a 10-year period and announced it would seek immediate legislation to authorize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to become its external regulators; (3) DOE's position, however, has changed; (4) DOE is now evaluating the feasibility of external regulation by conducting a pilot program at selected DOE sites over a 2-year period; (5) DOE's pilot program is a sharp departure from its earlier strong position to immediately seek legislation enabling external regulation by NRC and OSHA; (6) moreover, DOE's pilot program, which is designed to simulate external regulation at selected facilities, will not provide managers with much of the information they will need to make well-informed judgments about the value and the practicality of external regulation; (7) the scope of the pilot program remains in doubt because no high-risk, complex, or defense facilities have been selected; (8) also, DOE's pilot program has been largely limited to simulate regulation by NRC; and (9) no joint pilots with OSHA have been completed or planned to study the jurisdictional overlap that exists between the two agencies.

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