Nuclear Regulation

Oversight of Quality Assurance at Nuclear Power Plants Needs Improvement Gao ID: RCED-86-41 January 23, 1986

GAO reviewed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) efforts to: (1) identify declining performance trends in the operation of nuclear power plants that indicate the need for corrective action by utilities; and (2) require utilities to upgrade quality assurance programs when deficiencies are observed.

GAO found that NRC assessments have provided the agency and utilities with a useful perspective on the total operational effectiveness of nuclear power plants; however, they are limited in scope and could be more useful in promoting early detection of utility management weaknesses if the agency expanded the analyses and the way the assessment reports are used. In addition, GAO found that: (1) NRC decisions to require 12 utilities to upgrade their management capabilities and performance generally followed either numerous inspection violations or equipment failures; (2) NRC did not make such decisions on a consistent basis because of the discretionary authority granted to regional offices and a lack of criteria to mandate improvement programs or documentation of why they were not warranted; (3) NRC could improve the use of individual assessment reports, which identify utility management weaknesses by analyzing the results of the assessments over a number of years; and (4) NRC could gain a more accurate picture of how well a utility operates its nuclear plants by including plant operating data and reports of safety or operating incidents in its periodic assessments.


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.

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