Environment News Service

NUCLEAR REGULATORS IMPROVING, BUT COULD DO BETTER

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, December 16, 1999 (ENS) - A report released last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new program for assessing safety levels at nuclear power plants makes significant improvements in objectivity, consistency and timeliness. However, the report says that the new program does not assure that the NRC will become an effective regulator. The report documents more than two dozen examples of the NRC learning about safety problems at nuclear power plants without acting to make plant owners fix them. "The NRC has no teeth in its regulatory bite," said David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer for UCS and author of the report. "The new program lacks the work necessary to correct that fundamental problem."

The Union of Concerned Scientists worries about the NRC's plan to next year slash its inspection efforts at nuclear power plants by 15 percent. The scientists recommend that the NRC increase the productivity of its plant inspectors - who now spend less than 30 percent of their time inspecting plants. The report contains a list of studies performed by public interest groups, Congress, and the nuclear industry itself which all conclude that the NRC is an ineffective regulator. "Putting an ineffective regulator behind the wheel of a new program is no more likely to work than moving a drunk driver from a Toyota to a BMW," said Lochbaum. "Unless you cure the impairment, the vehicle makes little difference in the outcome." The full report, titled "The NRC's New Oversight Process: On the Road to Effective Regulation?" is available at: http://www.ucsusa.org/energy/oversight.pdf

Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.