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ED0 believes the matter should be given top priority attention, this is communicated to OIA. 01A tries to accommodate the ED0's scheduling
recommendations whenever possible.
The Need for an Inspector General
The Commission does not wish to quarrel over the basic concept of an Inspector General. The need for an independent and objective internal investigative and audit unit within the NRC has long been recognized. This function has been
performed by OIA.
Legislation pending before Congress would establish an Inspector General within the NRC. These proposals would have varying effects on the mission of 0IA as it currently exists. There would be some modifications to its duties, such as the requirement that the Office report to Congress semi-annually. The principal change, however, would be to make the 01A Director, or Inspector General as it would become, subject to appointment and removal by the
This may appear to be a small change but it is a change which merits some reflection before the Congress acts to extend for the first time what may be a perfectly sound concept within the confines of the Executive Branch to the somewhat different environment of a small, independent regulatory commission
like the NRC.
We have not one but five independent officials acting jointly to manage the agency and to act in the public interest. We are curselves Presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate. Our licensing processes operate in an Open and highly charged environment in which the staff's work-product is tested and retested before licensing boards, appeal boards, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and the Commission itself. Under the circumstances, it is difficult for us to see how providing the Commission with an inspector general subject to Presidential appointment and removal would
better assure effectiveness, efficiency and integrity in the NRC's operations.
Need for a Statutorily Established Independent 0I
The Commission considers the Office of Investigations to be an essential line component of the NRC. 0I's responsibilities include, for example, conducting investigations regarding whether in particular instances senior officials of applicants and licensees have been forthright with the NRC, have supplied the NRC with accurate information, and have acted with the necessary integrity. It also investigates allegations that utility officials have sought to intimidate workers for raising safety concerns. The information generated by 0I frequently has a significant effect on our regulatory decisions. The Commission strongly believes that 0I should not be removed from the line functions of the NRC. The Commission unanimously agrees that 01 should not be
made part of any Office of Inspector General established by the Congress.
The Commission is particularly troubled by language in pending legislation
which would prevent the Commission from having a role in the initiation,
carrying out, or completion of any investigation by 0I. Such legislation would interfere with the Commission's ability to carry out its regulatory responsibility to protect the public health and safety and the common defense and security. As I've mentioned previously, the reason 01 exists is to provide information for staff determinations and Commission decisions. While referrals to the Department of Justice are important, and an appropriate
function for OI, they are not the primary reason 01 conducts investigations.
In evaluating the Commission position on this matter, it is important to understand the relationship of 0I activities to the fundamental health and safety mission of the NRC. Each year the NRC receives information regarding hundreds of acts of potential licensee wrongdoing. Some of the allegations are supported by substantial evidence and, if proven, could have a direct bearing on a licensee's ability to operate a facility in conformance with our regulations. Some of the allegations have a direct bearing on whether the Commission should act favorably on a license application that is in its final stages of agency review. Other allegations on their face may appear to be frivolous, or, even if proven, would have little or no bearing on the public
health and safety.
The NRC has limited resources and it is unlikely it will ever be in a position to fully and completely investigate all allegations. That is true of both allegations 0I investigates and those our technical staff review. Accordingly, it is important that information regarding potential wrongdoing be reviewed for the purpose of determining which matters warrant full and
complete investigation. For those to be investigated, determinations must be
made regarding which should be given the highest priority. The criteria for determining priorities used by the NRC give the highest priority to those investigations having the greatest bearing on the public health and safety or
pending Commission licensing decisions.
Currently, the Commission has the authority to set priorities for the Office of Investigations. It has the authority to direct that Office to conduct an investigation promptly or to suspend an investigation because of a need to devote resources to higher priority items. The absence of this authority might jeopardize the Commission's ability to assure health and safety issues receive the appropriate attention given limited agency resources. Just as the Commission can direct the technical staff where to focus its attention, the Commission needs to be able to focus 01's attention on matters the Commission
believes are most important.
Pending legislation would, in effect, remove that authority from the Commission. Although under the legislative proposals the Commission could continue to make recommendations to 0I on the priority and initiation of investigations, 0I would not be required to adopt those recommendations. We believe this could have an adverse effect on the public health and safety because 0I does not have the technical expertise to set priorities based on public health and safety considerations. That expertise resides with the Commission and the NRC staff. Moreover, if the Commission loses control over 0I priorities, investigations that must be completed before licensing or enforcement decisions are made might not be completed in a time frame that is
compatible with the Commission's decision-making needs. For these reasons,
the Commission strongly opposes legislation which would give 0I additional independence. This same reasoning leads us to conclude unanimously that OI should not be made part of the Inspector General's Office, if such an office
Despite the need for the Commission to establish priorities for 01, that office now has and must continue to have the independence to determine how specific investigations should be conducted, and 0I must be free to draw its own conclusions based on the information developed in its investigations,
without interference from the Commission, the NRC staff, or others.
The Role and Effectiveness of the Investigation Referral Board
With the concurrence of the Commission, the EDO established the Investigation Referral Board (IRB) in November of 1986. Prior to the creation of that Board, the Commission had established a threshold for the initiation of OI investigations. Before an investigation was to be instituted there was to be (1) a reasonable basis to believe that wrongdoing occurred, i.e., the violaticn at issue appears more likely to have been intentional or to have resulted from careless disregard or reckless indifference than from error or oversight; and (2) there is a regulatory need for an investigation. The first threshold serves to differentiate what matters should be handled by the staff inspection process rather than by the investigation process. The second threshold is to determine whether additional information is needed before a regulatory decision is made. In some cases there may be sufficient
information available so that an investigation is not warranted.