Rebukes for US nuclear operators, and NRC from Government Accountability Office

15 April 2005

The USA's Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a damning report on the control of radioactive waste at the country’s nuclear plants and has criticised both nuclear facilities and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

According to the report, poor oversight and gaps in safety procedures have left several facilities unsure of the whereabouts of some spentnuclear fuel (SNF), an issue that may extend to more than the three plants already known to have problems tracking materials. "NRC inspectors often could not confirm that containers that were designated as containing loose fuel rods in fact contained the fuel rods," the report said. This has been echoed in comments from the NRC suggesting that there was "uneven" control of SNF.

Meanwhile, the GAO analysis says that federal regulations do not clarify procedures for physical inventories of SNF, loose fuel rods and fragments. The report concluded with the recommendation that the NRC should establish specific requirements for control and accounting of SNF at nuclear reactors and should develop inspection procedures to verify compliance and assess licensees' tracking programmes.

Three plants have reported missing or unaccounted-for spent nuclear fuel in recent years in the USA: Humboldt Bay in California, Millstone in Connecticut, and Vermont Yankee.

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