Delaware Delegation Gets Congressional Investigators to Review NRC Oversight of Nuclear Plants
After expressing concerns about the safety of operations at the Hope Creek and Salem Nuclear Generating facilities, U.S. Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Tom Carper (D-DE) and U.S. Representative Mike Castle (R-DE) today announced that the investigative arm of Congress has agreed to measure the effectiveness of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) reactor oversight process. In an April 14, 2005 letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Delegation pointed out that the NRC is solely responsible for the oversight of the nation's 103 nuclear power plants, but to date, there has been no method of assessing the effectiveness of the agency's five-year-old oversight program.
With this in mind, the Delegation requested the GAO undertake the first, independent review of the NRC's revised reactor oversight process (ROP). Today, the GAO formally announced to Senators Biden and Carper and Congressman Castle that it has agreed to undertake the study, and that the agency has informed the NRC of its intention to conduct the review. The GAO is currently drafting a design plan for the study, which is scheduled to be released by September 30, 2005. At that time, the GAO will provide the Delegation with a projected date for the study's completion. GAO representatives will meet with Delaware's Congressional Delegation offices later this summer to fine tune the details of the study.
The Delegation has requested that the GAO conduct the review to determine if the NRC can accurately uncover systemic problems and ensure they are addressed system-wide; identify problems at individual power plants and make corrective action; identify facilities where employees have safety concerns and ensure the concerns are handled properly and expeditiously.
"This investigation could not come at a better time. The Hope Creek facility continues to struggle with maintenance problems and employee concerns with safety conscious work environment issues. That, along with a renewed interest in nuclear power as one of the solutions to our ever growing energy needs nationwide, shows it is imperative that the agency responsible for nuclear power oversight be able to provide the public with assurances that plants are operating in the safest manner possible," Delaware's Congressional Delegation said today.
Joining the Delaware Congressional Delegation in the request to the GAO are Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ed Whitfield of Kentucky. Both are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has oversight authority of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition, Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and George Voinovich of Ohio sent a similar letter to the GAO immediately following the Delaware Delegation's request. The Senators serve on the Environment and Public Works Committee. As a result, Senators Inhofe and Voinovich are included in the study as well.