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Category Archives: Inspector General

OIG Audits NRC’s Scientific Research Program

Stephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits

An Office of the Inspector General audit regarding the NRC’s process for ensuring integrity in scientific research is now available here. The audit set out to determine if the NRC has the controls is place to oigassure that scientific research is objective, credible, and transparent.  

The NRC’s regulatory research program conducts research in the areas of nuclear reactors, nuclear materials, and radioactive waste. Scientific information that supports research includes factual inputs, data, models, analyses and technical information, or scientific assessments. This scientific information often informs NRC regulations.

The OIG found that while the NRC has controls in place, the way it manages scientific information, including information associated with scientific research, needs to be strengthened. Specifically, the NRC must improve the internal controls associated with responding to public requests to correct scientific information and for designating it as influential scientific information. Additionally, the OIG audit states the NRC must adopt required guidelines on conducting peer review of its information products associated with scientific research.

The audit also states the NRC must have effective controls in place to ensure that its information products are objective, credible, and transparent. Without effective controls, an opportunity for maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of NRC scientific information is being missed and may result in compromising stakeholder confidence in NRC’s ability to regulate in an unbiased, trustworthy, and open manner.

The report makes five recommendations specific to the way the NRC handles scientific information, to ensure that the NRC adopts federal requirements on peer review, and to ensure that internal guidance that may be impacted by new or revised federal guidance is regularly reviewed to determine if revisions are necessary.

NRC management stated their general agreement with the audit findings and recommendations.

 

Inspector General Report on Spent Fuel Pools Makes Recommendations To Improve Oversight

Stephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits

oigAn Office of the Inspector General audit regarding the NRC’s oversight of spent fuel pools is now available here. The audit set out to determine if the NRC’s oversight of spent fuel pools — and the nuclear fuel they hold — provides adequate protection for public health and safety, and the environment.

The NRC is responsible for developing the regulatory framework, analytical tools, and data needed to ensure safe and secure storage, transportation, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. In the U.S. today, there are 93 spent fuel pools currently storing spent fuel. Recent NRC staff studies demonstrating the safety of spent fuel pools and the safety of continued storage of spent fuel at reactor sites highlight the need to make sure the pools operate safely for longer periods than originally envisioned.

The OIG found the NRC does provide adequate oversight of spent fuel pools and the fuel they contain, but opportunities exist for improvement. Specifically, we found that regulatory uncertainty exists in the NRC’s evaluation of the analytical methods used to prevent a chain reaction in the spent fuel pools. In addition, there are gaps in NRC’s spent fuel pool inspection program as inspections of spent fuel pools greatly vary between licensee sites and are limited in scope.

As part of its mission, the NRC must inspect and assess licensee operations and facilities to ensure compliance with its regulatory requirements. The NRC should also regulate in a manner that clearly communicates requirements and ensures regulations are consistently applied and practical. The OIG believes an absence of effective spent fuel pool guidance for both licensees and NRC staff may reduce program efficiency and effectiveness.

The report makes four specific recommendations to improve NRC oversight, including developing and issuing new guidance for licensees and developing new NRC inspection procedures. NRC management stated their general agreement with the findings and recommendations.

 

OIG Report: Yucca Mountain Records Retention

Stephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits

 

oigAn Office of the Inspector General audit that looked at the NRC’s policy and procedures on document management related to the high level waste repository at Yucca Mountain is now available.

The audit set out to determine if agency policy and procedures on document management are compliant with federal requirements and provide reasonable assurance that documentation related to the review of the Yucca Mountain facility has been appropriately managed and retained.

In 2008, DOE submitted a license application to the NRC to build the repository at Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. DOE later filed a motion to withdraw the application in March 2010. NRC staff was subsequently directed to prepare the orderly closeout of their technical review.

The OIG audit report indicates that all records were retained; however, NRC was out of compliance with the agency’s records management policy during the period that the licensing process was suspended. OIG notes the NRC has recently become compliant with its records management policy; therefore, OIG makes no recommendations.

The NRC’s OIG is an independent, objective office tasked with auditing NRC programs and operations with a focus on — among other things — detecting fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

 

OIG Report Generally Positive on NRC’s FOIA Process But Suggests Some Improvements

Stephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits

 

oigThe Office of the Inspector General’s most recent report – Audit of NRC’s Freedom of Information Act Process – is now available to the public. This audit looked at whether the NRC complies with current laws, and how efficiently it does its work, when processing Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Freedom of Information Act gives any person the right to request records kept by the federal government.

The OIG said the NRC generally follows federal rules and meets timeliness requirements in responding to these requests. But the audit found the NRC could improve through enhanced training, better use of technology, and better adherence with review and approval regulations.

The agency would also benefit from establishing controls to ensure more consistency in and better tracking of management reviews.

The report makes nine specific recommendations to improve the NRC’s process. NRC management stated their general agreement with the findings and recommendations.

New OIG Report Issued on NRC’s Compliance with its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Regulations

oigStephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits
 

An Office of the Inspector General audit that looked at the NRC’s compliance with its regulations related to preparing environmental impact statements went public today.

The audit – formally titled Audit of NRC’s Compliance With 10 CFR Part 51 Relative to Environmental Impact Statements — set out to determine whether the NRC complies with its regulations. The OIG identified areas of noncompliance with 10 CFR Part 51 related to disclosure and public involvement, specifically, publishing a record of decision, the format of environmental impact statements, and completing all scoping requirements for all environmental impact statements.

While NRC management officials stated they believe the agency’s NEPA implementation activities have been fully compliant with the relevant regulations, management also stated it will consider OIG’s recommendations as part of the agency’s continuous improvement efforts.

The NRC’s OIG is an independent, objective office tasked with auditing NRC programs and operations with a focus on — among other things — detecting fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

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