no differently than findings by individual work- ers, their supervisors, and internal auditors. The NRC inspector’s finding is entered into the very QA program that has just proven faulty, raising concerns that the finding will not be used effec- tively to improve the situation.
NRC inspectors must not merely be another source of input to a plant’s QA program. Their proper role is to independently evaluate how effectively individual workers, supervisors, and internal auditors are finding and fixing problems. NRC inspection findings are unique in that they and they alone demonstrate that all three other levels of quality assurance failed. Therefore, NRC inspection findings must trigger needed repairs to the three defective levels of the plant’s QA program in order to prevent continued safety margin erosion.
Rev. 2 10/12/06
Walking a Nuclear Tightrope
The Tip of the Iceberg
The NRC’s misguided approach to regulating QA programs is the primary reason for the 51 year-plus reactor outages. Since the agency’s inspectors only audit about five percent of the activities conducted at nuclear power plants, it is reasonable to assume there are roughly 95 problems that go undiscovered for every five that are. By only requiring these five problems to be corrected and not patching the associated holes in the QA program that produced the problems, more and more problems will go uncorrected as time passes. Eventually, something acts as a catalyst to cause these myriad problems to finally get fixed, but by that time the list of overlooked problems is so long that it takes a year or more to address them all.