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Project on Government Oversight




GAO Findings On Lack Of Safety At Nuclear Plants Confirms POGO's Report

June 17, 1997 


A General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation being released today, confirms findings from the Project On Government Oversight's (POGO's) September 1996 report which highlighted a lack of oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that lead to longstanding safety problems at nuclear power plants across the country. The GAO report was requested by Senators Biden (DE) and Lieberman (CT) who represent districts with plants listed on the NRC's "Watch List"--a list of the country's worst nuclear power plants.

"The GAO report couldn't have arrived at a better time," asserted Brian. "This month a vacancy will open on the NRC's Commission. The President and Congress must appoint and install someone who will transform this paper tiger into a junkyard dog."

POGO's Executive Director stated, "This GAO report officially confirms what the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) concluded in its report, `Who the Hell is Regulating Who?' The NRC clearly places industry profits over public safety," Brian added, "The fox isn't even guarding the hen house anymore--it has moved in."

POGO's report profiled numerous safety issues identified by the NRC almost 20 years ago that still haven't been fixed. In addition, POGO found that many times the NRC will dismiss safety problems, even those it considers to be the highest priority, with no fix at all. Eventually the number of safety problems forced some nuclear plants to shut down for months or years before fixing their problems and restarting.

Today's GAO report mirrors POGO's findings by stating, "For some plants, NRC has not taken aggressive enforcement action to force the licensees to fix their long-standing safety problems on a timely basis. As a result, the plants' conditions have worsened, making safety margins smaller."

POGO director Brian argued, "This is an important time for the NRC and the nuclear industry--with increased competition on the horizon, the NRC's track record of acquiescing to industry, and our aging reactors, safety can no longer take a back seat."

A recent letter sent to the NRC by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Edison Company, James J. O'Connor, highlights the promises made to the NRC and its abdication of responsibility to hold the plants accountable, "[W]e recognize that the consistency and pace of our improvement efforts in recent years have not been what we intended or expected." Commonwealth Edison currently operates twelve plants, six of which are included on the NRC's Watch List.

GAO's Report: Nuclear Regulation -- Preventing Problem Plants Requires More Effective NRC Action (RCED-97-145) 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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