Nuclear Safety

Information on the International Nuclear Regulators Association Gao ID: RCED-99-243 August 6, 1999

The United States now participates in and funds many organizations dealing with international nuclear safety. One of these groups, the International Nuclear Regulators Association, was established in 1997 as an informal group for senior regulators to exchange ideas and views on issues related to nuclear safety and regulation. This report provides information on (1) the Association's activities since it was created, (2) U.S. costs to support the Commission's participation in the Association, (3) the views of the Commissioners and others on the benefits of the Association, and (4) other groups and activities that promote nuclear safety and the extent to which these groups duplicate the work of the Association. GAO found that the International Nuclear Regulators Association's activities since its inception more than two years ago have focused on practical matters, such as arranging and conducting meetings to discuss nuclear regulation and safety-related issues.

GAO noted that: (1) the Association's activities since its inception over two years ago have focused in part on practical matters such as arranging and conducting meetings to discuss nuclear regulation and safety-related issues; (2) since 1998, the Association has published statements on topical matters, such as the year 2000 computer problem and its potential impact on the safe operation of nuclear powerplants; (3) the Commission's former Chairman told GAO that the Association's public statements are important because they increase public awareness of the group and help promote nuclear safety from a regulatory perspective; (4) according to NRC, its costs for participating in the Association from fiscal year (FY) 1997 through May 1999 were $113,719; (5) about two-thirds of these costs, or $72,500, are for the salary and benefits of Commission employees who support Association-related activities; (6) the Commission Chairman's salary and benefits are not included in this amount because the Chairman's time is not allocated to individual projects or activities; (7) the remainder of the expenses are for travel, activities related to hosting meetings and functions, and costs for the design and printing of stationary; (8) NRC anticipates spending $40,000 to $45,000 to support its participation in the Association in FY 2000; (9) Commission officials stated that the Commission's future costs for participating in the Association would decrease because the Commission's Chairman no longer serves as the Association's chairman or provides secretariat services; (10) members of the Association, representatives of international organizations, and U.S. government and U.S. nuclear industry officials expressed differing views about the Association; (11) seven Association members, including the former NRC Chairman, found it to be useful as a way to exchange ideas and information about regulatory issues facing each country; (12) nine other international groups or organizations have been established or proposed that also promote nuclear safety and regulation; (13) some of these groups have formed under the auspices of larger, multilateral organizations; and (14) according to officials from NRC's Office of International Programs and the Department of State, as well as some Association members, the Association does not duplicate the functions of other groups because its members consist of the heads of participating countries' nuclear regulatory organizations.

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