The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Needs To Aggressively Monitor and Independently Evaluate Nuclear Power Plant Construction

Gao ID: EMD-78-80 September 7, 1978

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a program for inspecting the construction of nuclear power plants and a related program for inspecting firms that supply safety-related components for the power plants. The vendor inspection program was started in 1974 when NRC determined that 63 percent of nuclear power plant construction and operation problems were traceable to vendor errors and that utility companies were not properly inspecting the vendors.

NRC bases for judging the quality of construction and its inspection practices need improvement. NRC inspectors do little independent testing of construction work and rely heavily upon the utility company self-evaluation, spend little time observing ongoing construction work, and do not routinely communicate with people who do the construction work. Of 45 inspection report items reviewed, 31 were deficient because of either inadequate reporting, inadequate attention to details, acceptance of inadequate licensee action on deficient items, or inadequate investigation. Also, NRC did not require documentation for inspection reports. NRC is not making efficient use of its inspectors' time and talents. Too great a proportion of their time is spent on clerical duties and their normal inspection work is disrupted by investigations of allegations of poor construction work. The vendor inspection program has had a positive effect on the safety of power plants, but improvements are needed in inspectors' reporting practices, attention to details, documentation, and investigations.


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