Nuclear Regulation: Strategy Needed to Regulate Safety Using Information on Risk

RCED-99-95 Published: Mar 19, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined various issues related to the safe operation of commercial nuclear power plants, focusing on: (1) some of the challenges that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear power industry could experience in a competitive environment; (2) issues that NRC needs to resolve to implement a risk-informed regulatory approach; and (3) the status of NRC's efforts to apply a risk-informed regulatory approach to two of its oversight programs--plant safety assessments and enforcement.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Nuclear Regulatory Commission To help ensure the safe operation of plants and the continued protection of public health and safety in a competitive environment, the Commissioners of NRC should direct the staff to develop a comprehensive strategy that includes but is not limited to objectives, goals, and activities, and timeframes for the transition to risk-informed regulation; specifies how the Commission expects to define the scope and implementation of risk-informed regulation; and identifies the manner in which it expects to continue the free exchange of operational information necessary to improve the quality and reliability of risk assessments.
Closed - Implemented
Although NRC initially agreed on the need for a comprehensive strategy and that the strategy would describe the activities that the agency wanted to risk-inform, the actions needed to make them risk-informed, and the schedule and resources needed to accomplish the activities, it has not done so. Instead, NRC developed the Risk-Informed Regulation Implementation Plan that includes guidance to identify, prioritize, and implement risk-informed changes and identifies specific tasks and projected milestones for the tasks. In addition, NRC has said that its strategic plans, policy statements, and new planning, budgeting, and performance management process help direct agency activities and resources to the most important safety issues.

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