Observations on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan Page: 2 of 42
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NRC is undergoing change in virtually every aspect of its regulatory activities. To a
large extent, the economic restructuring of the nation's electric power system, from a
regulated industry to one driven by competition, precipitated this change. NRC says
that competition will challenge it to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden on the
nuclear industry while ensuring safety and making more efficient and effective use of
its own resources. To meet these objectives, NRC has been moving from its
traditional approach that was largely developed without the benefit of quantitative
estimates of risk to an approach-termed risk-informed regulation-that considers
relative risk in conjunction with engineering analyses and operating experience.
Where applicable, NRC has also been moving to a performance-based regulatory
approach. Under such an approach, NRC would establish clearly defined, objective
criteria to assess a licensee's performance, allow the licensee flexibility to determine
how to meet the criteria, and recognize that the failure to meet a performance
criterion will not in and of itself result in adverse consequences.
Results in Brief
NRC's performance report includes all the performance goals related to the four key
outcomes and shows that it has met all of its performance goals for only one key
outcome--no radiation-related deaths or illnesses due to civilian nuclear reactors.
NRC did not meet one goal in each of the remaining three key outcomes. For two of
the unmet goals, NRC concluded that the deviations were slight and did not affect its
performance. NRC was silent regarding the third unmet fiscal year 1999 performance
NRC has partially addressed the weaknesses that we identified last year. For
example, NRC is following through on its commitment to focus more on outcomes,
rather than its previous practice of focusing on outputs, to better determine the
extent to which its programs and activities have contributed to achieving its
performance goals and the agency more directly links key strategies to its
performance goals. Despite these positive actions, we continue to have concerns that
NRC has not verified and validated the data used to assess performance for the four
key outcomes. NRC expects to address the validation and verification of data in its
fiscal year 2002 performance plan.
The actions of its licensees, industry organizations, states, and others have a
significant impact on the extent to which NRC will achieve its strategic and
performance goals. However, NRC says that it cannot determine the degree of
impact that others have on achieving its goals and outcomes. Since NRC cannot
show a one-to-one relationship between the performance of its licensees and the
impact that the agency's programs have on safety, its program evaluations should
provide reliable information to help the Congress and others determine the validity
and reasonableness of the agency's goals and strategies and identify factors likely to
affect achieving its performance goals. However, NRC's program evaluations did not
provide such information, did not discuss how the evaluations helped it to achieve
2 GAO/RCED-00-200R NRC's FY 1999 Performance Report and FY 2001 Performance Plan
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United States. General Accounting Office. Observations on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan, text, June 30, 2000; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301424/m1/2/: accessed December 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.