NRC needs to improve its cost estimates, GAO finds

The General Accounting Office (GAO) says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) could do a better job of creating reliable cost estimates, according to a GAO report released this month.

GAO recommends that NRC align its cost estimating procedures with relevant cost estimating best practices identified in the GAO Cost Guide and ensure that future cost estimates are prepared in accordance with relevant cost estimating best practices. NRC generally agreed with GAO’s recommendation.

The GAO report was stimulated by some of the proposals NRC issued following the 2011 meltdown accident at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan.

The March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant resulted in a release of radioactive material, GAO noted. NRC considered several new requirements for U.S. plants based on lessons learned from Fukushima, such as the installation of a filtered venting system.

“Nuclear industry stakeholders raised concerns that NRC’s cost estimate for filtered venting systems did not reflect accurate costs of implementation,” GAO said.

GAO was asked to review NRC’s cost estimating procedures. The report examines (1) the extent to which NRC’s cost estimating procedures support the development of reliable cost estimates and (2) the extent to which NRC staff’s 2012 cost estimate for proposed filtered venting systems is reliable.

GAO compared both NRC’s cost estimating procedures and the 2012 cost estimate to four characteristics of reliable cost estimates: comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible.

The Fukushima accident had raised questions about venting pressure should potential accidents occur at about 31 U.S. boiling water reactors (BWRs) with “Mark I” and “Mark II” containments.

The document, GAO-15-98: was published: Dec 12 and publicly released Dec 16.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.