Report Of The President's Commission On
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The Commission

Senior Staff







The Accident


Commission Recommendations


The Commission found a number of inadequacies in the NRC and, therefore, proposes a restructuring of the agency. Because there is insufficient direction in the present statute, the President and Congress should consider incorporating many of the following measures in statutory form.

Agency Organization and Management

The Commission believes that as presently constituted, the NRC does not possess the organizational and management capabilities necessary for the effective pursuit of safety goals. The Commission recommends:

1.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be restructured as a new independent agency in the executive branch.

a.  The present five-member commission should be abolished.

b.  The new agency should be headed by a single administrator appointed by the President, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve a substantial term (not coterminous with that of the President) in order to provide an expectation of continuity, but at the pleasure of the President to allow removal when the President deems it necessary. The administrator should be a person from outside the present agency.

c.  The administrator should have substantial discretionary authority over the internal organization and management of the new agency, and over personnel transfers from the existing NRC. Unlike the present NRC arrangement, the administrator and major staff components should be located in the same building or group of buildings.

d.  A major role of the administrator should be assuring that offices within the agency communicate sufficiently so that research, operating experience, and inspection and enforcement affect the overall performance of the agency.

 2.  An oversight committee on nuclear reactor safety should be established. Its purpose would be to examine, on a continuing basis, the performance of the agency and of the nuclear industry in addressing and resolving important public safety issues associated with the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, and in exploring the overall risks of nuclear power.

a.  The members of the committee, not to exceed 15 in number, should be appointed by the President and should include: persons conversant with public health, environmental protection, emergency planning, energy technology and policy, nuclear power generation, and nuclear safety; one or more state governors; and members of the general public.

b.  The committee, assisted by its own staff, should report to the President and to Congress at least annually.

3.  The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) should be retained, in a strengthened role, to continue providing an independent technical check on safety matters. The members of the committee should continue to be part-time appointees; the Commission believes that the independence and high quality of the members might be compromised by making them full-time federal employees. The Commission recommends the following changes:

a.  The staff of ACRS should be strengthened to provide increased capacity for independent analysis. Special consideration should be given to improving ACRS' capabilities in the field of public health.

b.  The ACRS should not be required to review each license application. When ACRS chooses to review a license application, it should have the statutory right to intervene in hearings as a party. In particular, ACRS should be authorized to raise any safety issue in licensing proceedings, to give reasons and arguments for its views, and to require formal response by the agency to any submission it makes. Any member of ACRS should be authorized to appear and testify in hearings, but should be exempt from subpoena in any proceedings in which he has not previously appeared voluntarily or made an individual written submission.

c.  ACRS should have similar rights in rulemaking proceedings. In particular, it should have the power to initiate a rulemaking proceeding before the agency to resolve any generic safety issue it identifies.

The Agency's Substantive Mandate

The new agency's primary statutory mission and first operating priority must be the assurance of safety in the generation of nuclear power, including safeguards of nuclear materials from theft, diversion, or loss. Accordingly, the Commission recommends the following:

 4.  Included in the agency's general substantive charge should be the requirement to establish and explain safety-cost trade-offs; where additional safety improvements are not clearly outweighed by cost considerations, there should be a presumption in favor of the safety change. Transfers of statutory jurisdiction from the NRC should be preceded by a review to identify and remove any unnecessary responsibilities that are not germane to safety. There should also be emphasis on the relationship of the new agency's safety activities to related activities of other agencies. (See recommendations E.2 and F.l.b.)

a.  The agency should be directed to upgrade its operator and supervisor licensing functions. These should include the accreditation of training institutions from which candidates for a license must graduate. Such institutions should be required to employ qualified instructors, to perform emergency and simulator training, and to include instruction in basic principles of reactor science, reactor safety, and the hazards of radiation. The agency should also set criteria for operator qualifications and background investigations, and strictly test license candidates for the particular power plant they will operate. The agency should periodically review and reaccredit all training programs and relicense individuals on the basis of current information on experience in reactor operations. (See recommendations C.I and C.2.)

b.  The agency should be directed to employ a broader definition of matters relating to safety that considers thoroughly the full range of safety matters, including, but not limited to, those now identified as "safety-related" items, which currently receive special attention.

c.  Other safety emphases should include:

(i) a systems engineering examination of overall plant design and performance, including interaction among major systems and increased attention to the possibility of multiple failures;

(ii) review and approval of control room design; the agency should consider the need for additional instrumentation and for changes in overall design to aid understanding of plant status, particularly for response to emergencies; (see recommendation D.I) and

(iii) an increased safety research capacity with a broadly defined scope that includes issues relevant to public health. It is particularly necessary to coordinate research with the regulatory process in an effort to assure the maximum application of scientific knowledge in the nuclear power industry.

5.  Responsibility and accountability for safe power plant operations, including the management of a plant during an accident, should be placed on the licensee in all circumstances. It is therefore necessary to assure that licensees are competent to discharge this responsibility. To assure this competency, and in light of our findings regarding Metropolitan Edison, we recommend that the agency establish and enforce higher organizational and management standards for licensees. Particular attention should be given to such matters as the following: integration of decision-making in any organization licensed to construct or operate a plant; kinds of expertise that must be within the organization; financial capability; quality assurance programs; operator and supervisor practices and their periodic reevaluation; plant surveillance and maintenance practices; and requirements for the analysis and reporting of unusual events.

6.  In order to provide an added contribution to safety, the agency should be required, to the maximum extent feasible, to locate new power plants in areas remote from concentrations of population. Siting determinations should be based on technical assessments of various classes of accidents that can take place, including those involving releases of low doses of radiation. (See recommendation F.2.)

7.  The agency should be directed to include, as part of its licensing requirements, plans for the mitigation of the consequences of accidents, including the cleanup and recovery of the contaminated plant. The agency should be directed to review existing licenses and to set deadlines for accomplishing any necessary modifications. (See recommendations D.2 and D.4.)

8.  Because safety measures to afford better protection for the affected population can be drawn from the high standards for plant safety recommended in this report, the NRC or its successor should, on a case-by-case basis, before issuing a new construction permit or operating license:

a.  assess the need to introduce new safety improvements recommended in this report, and in NRC and industry studies;

b.  review, considering the recommendations set forth in this report, the competency of the prospective operating licensee to manage the plant and the adequacy of its training program for operating personnel; and

c.  condition licensing upon review and approval of the state and local emergency plans.

Agency Procedures

The Commission believes that the agency must improve on prior performance in resolving generic and specific safety issues. Generic safety issues are considered in rulemaking proceedings that formulate new standards for categories of plants. Specific safety issues are considered in adjudicative proceedings that determine whether a particular plant should receive a license. Both kinds of safety issues are then dealt with in inspection and enforcement processes. The Commission believes that all of these agency functions need improvement, and accordingly recommends the following measures:

9.  The agency's authorization to make general rules affecting safety should:

a.  require the development of a public agenda according to which rules will be formulated;

b.  require the agency to set deadlines for resolving generic safety issues;

c.  require a periodic and systematic reevaluation of the agency's existing rules; and

d.  define rulemaking procedures designed to create a process that provides a meaningful opportunity for participation by interested persons, that ensures careful consideration and explanation of rules adopted by the agency, and that includes appropriate provision for the application of new rules to existing plants. In particular, the agency should: accompany newly proposed rules with an analysis of the issues they raise and provide an indication of the technical materials that are relevant; provide a sufficient opportunity for interested persons to evaluate and rebut materials relied on by the agency or submitted by others; explain its final rules fully, including responses to principal comments by the public, the ACRS, and other agencies on proposed rules; impose when necessary special interim safeguards for operating plants affected by generic safety rulemaking; and conduct systematic reviews of operating plants to assess the need for retroactive application of new safety requirements.

10. Licensing procedures should foster early and meaningful resolution of safety issues before major financial commitments in construction can occur. In order to ensure that safety receives primary emphasis in licensing, and to eliminate repetitive consideration of some issues in that process, the Commission recommends the following:

a.  Duplicative consideration of issues in several stages of one plant's licensing should, wherever possible, be reduced by allocating particular issues (such as the need for power) to a single stage of the proceedings.

b.  Issues that recur in many licensings should be resolved by rulemaking.

c.  The agency should be authorized to conduct a combined construction permit and operating license hearing whenever plans can be made sufficiently complete at the construction permit stage.

d.  There should be provision for the initial adjudication of license applications and for appeal to a board whose decisions would not be subject to further appeal to the administrator. Both initial adjudicators and appeal boards should have a clear mandate to pursue any safety issue, whether or not it is raised by a party.

e.  An Office of Hearing Counsel should be established in the agency. This office would not engage in the informal negotiations between other staff and applicants that typically precede formal hearings on construction permits. Instead, it would participate in the formal hearings as an objective party, seeking to assure that vital safety issues are addressed and resolved. The office should report directly to the administrator and should be empowered to appeal any adverse licensing board determination to the appeal board.

f.  Any specific safety issue left open in licensing proceedings should be resolved by a deadline.

11. The agency's inspection and enforcement functions must receive increased emphasis and improved management, including the following elements:

a.  There should be an improved program for the systematic safety evaluation of currently operating plants, in order to assess compliance with current requirements, to assess the need to make new requirements retroactive to older plants, and to identify new safety issues.

b.  There should be a program for the systematic assessment of experience in operating reactors, with special emphasis on discovering patterns in abnormal occurrences. An overall quality assurance measurement and reporting system based on this systematic assessment shall be developed to provide: 1) a measure of the overall improvement or decline in safety, and 2) a base for specific programs aimed at curing deficiencies and improving safety. Licensees must receive clear instructions on reporting requirements and clear communications summarizing the lessons of experience at other reactors.

c.  The agency should be authorized and directed to assess substantial penalties for licensee failure to report new "safety-related" information or for violations of rules defining practices or conditions already known to be unsafe.

d.  The agency should be directed to require its enforcement personnel to perform improved inspection and auditing of licensee compliance with regulations and to conduct major and unannounced on-site inspections of particular plants.

e.  Each operating licensee should be subject periodically to intensive and open review of its performance according to the requirements of its license and applicable regulations.