Nuclear Regulation

Process for Backfitting Changes in Nuclear Plants Has Improved Gao ID: RCED-86-27 December 24, 1985

GAO commented on: (1) a backfitting process the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) uses to require modifications at operating nuclear power plants; (2) the effect of those actions on selected facilities; and (3) improvements that should be made.

GAO found that individual units of NRC decentralized staff had raised safety concerns that utilities believed must be met as a condition for obtaining approval to operate their plants; however, NRC did not perform detailed analyses of the resulting benefits and costs or determine whether the changes would provide substantial additional protection. GAO found that, in 1981, NRC took steps to better manage backfitting by: (1) creating a senior management committee to review those backfits that apply to several or all plants; (2) developing another management system for backfits that apply to features unique to one plant; and (3) requiring documented analyses of the estimated safety benefits and costs of proposed backfits. Although the NRC staff followed the new processes in imposing some new requirements, other backfits occurred outside of the established systems. GAO found that, in order to: (1) eliminate the disagreement over what constitutes backfitting, NRC needs to define more precisely what it means by backfitting; (2) ensure that backfits receive appropriate senior management review, NRC should not require utilities to comply with new or modified regulations or staff positions unless they are imposed by a designated NRC official on the basis of documented analyses demonstrating that they provide a substantial increase in protection; and (3) have effective management of backfits, NRC should periodically assess the performance of its managers and staff in adhering to the new backfit rule and management systems.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Team: Phone:

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.