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Inspector General Finds Nuclear Agency Misled Congressma

March 9, 2000

Inspector General Finds Nuclear Agency Misled Congressman

Nuclear Regulator Allowed Industry Not Public to Review Commission Policy Paper

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Inspector General report finding that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) invited a nuclear industry group to help shape policy and later misled a congressman about the matter reinforces the widespread contention that the agency does the bidding of the industry at the expense of the public, Public Citizen said today.

    The report, released today, found that the NRC misled Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) regarding the release of an internal commission policy paper to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). The NRC shared the paper, which addressed the NRC s policy governing generic communications, with the NEI and provided the institute with an exclusive opportunity to review and comment on it. The NRC told Markey s office that the draft was simultaneously made available to the public when in fact it wasn t, the report said. In fact, the NRC never solicited public comment on the document.

    “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has abdicated its regulatory responsibility to the nuclear industry and excluded the public from the process,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen s Critical Mass Energy Project. “The NRC is supposed to be regulating the nuclear industry, not the other way around.”

    Because these policy papers are the primary decision-making tool of the commission, Public Citizen believes that it is improper for the nuclear industry to have an exclusive opportunity to review and alter their contents. Allowing NEI to review and alter NRC s policy papers is in direct conflict with at least two of the NRC s “principles of good regulation,” which include independence and openness, Hauter said. At the very least, the NRC should withdraw the document unless and until all interested parties have an opportunity to review it and provide comment, she said.

    “The NRC gives little more than lip service to the notion of public participation while simultaneously leaking internal commission documents to the nuclear industry and then proceeds to lie about it to Congress,” said James Riccio, senior analyst with Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. “It is no wonder that the NRC has garnered the disdain and mistrust of the public it is supposed to represent and protect.”

    The IG report, entitled “Misleading NRC Response to a Congressional Request for Information Concerning Circumstances Surrounding the Release of Draft SECY – 99-143,” states that “information contained in a July 19, 1999, letter signed by Chairman Dicus to Congressman Markey was inaccurate and misleading.” The letter from interim NRC Chairman Greta Dicus “inaccurately depicts that between April 7 and 22, 1999, the NRC staff simultaneously provided the draft SECY to NEI and the public.”

    The report determined that the inaccurate information given Markey s office was “built on erroneous information” supplied by someone involved in the development of the draft document. The information was not verified before being sent to Markey s office. Further, more accurate information was available but was not given to Markey. The report determined that NRC staff “did not exercise due care” in ensuring the accuracy of the information.

    “Unfortunately, the NRC is neither independent nor open, and neither objective nor unbiased,” Riccio said. “This investigation reinforces the public’s perception that the NRC has been thoroughly corrupted and captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate.”