Call Toll Free +1 855-856-TIPS
United States Of America – Counterfeit parts are at the center of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Special Inquiry. A detailed report was released on Wednesday, February 9 outlining the concerns. Robert J. Feitel, Inspector General – NRC, presented the findings to Christopher T. Hanson, Chairman of the NRC, via Memorandum. The inquiry outlined by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investingated allegations that counterfeit, fraudulent, and suspect items (CFSI) are present in most, if not all, of the country’s nuclear power plants; that the NRC has lowered oversight standards for CFSI; and that the NRC has failed to adequately address allegers’ concerns about CFSI.
The Investigation Yielded Five Significant Discoveries:
1. Operating plants contain counterfeit, fraudulent, and suspicious items (CFSI). Collected data from a nuclear power plant in each of the NRC’s four regions showed evidence that CFSI are being employed in a Region III plant. Additionally, two CFSI component failures at Region I facilities. The recent OIG audit study found the presence of CFSI in nuclear power reactors.
2. The NRC staff does not play a direct role in identifying and preventing the introduction of CFSI into a plant, the extent of CFSI in operating plants is unknown because the NRC does not typically require licensees to track CFSI unless a situation meets the definition of a significant condition adverse to quality or a reportable issue under 10 C.F.R. Part 21, Reporting of Defects and Noncompliance (Part 21). Additionally, CFSI are not officially recorded in regional corrective action plans, and that tracking is voluntary, with techniques and data quality varying significantly among licensees.
3. While evidence was not shown that the NRC has lowered CFSI standards, several indicators that suggest this, including a decrease in inspection violations, a downward trend in Part 21 reports, and the termination of a Part 21 rulemaking in 2016 that addressed CFSI oversight is concerning.
4. While several third-party organizations reported fewer than ten possible CFSI instances since 2016, this analysis found that the total number of CFSI cases may be higher. The US Department of Energy’s employees detected over 100 CFSI occurrences in FY 2021 alone, including five instances involving safety-critical components in its nuclear reactors. Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Agency published a paper in 2019 expressing concern about CFSI at nuclear power facilities around the world.
5. While the NRC’s Allegation Manual contains provisions for dealing with counterfeit/fraudulent parts, it was discovered that the NRC did not investigate or take any substantive action in response to an alleger’s concerns about the presence of CFSI, nor did it process any of the information provided by the alleger over the last decade through its Allegation Review Boards. Additionally, the NRC’s publications on the allegation process lack information concerning non-allegations, which is how this alleger’s concerns were categorized, which might be interpreted as deceptive to the public.
According to the DOE CFSI subject matter expert, in addition to GIDEP, the DOE’s nuclear facilities are required to report any CFSI in hazard categories 1, 2, and 3, as well as CFSI involving systems, structures, or components, to the DOE’s Occurrence Reporting and Processing System (ORPS). Only items discovered in nuclear reactors are reported in ORPS, which is intended to address safety concerns.
The same expert recently completed an annual report summarizing all CFSI discovered by the DOE during fiscal year 2021. Informing us that five CFSI safety components had been reported to ORPS, and DOE lab personnel (who do not currently report to ORPS) estimated that there were more than 100 CFSI unreported components. Additionally, the expert stated that the DOE’s CFSI working group, comprised of 130 staff members, is developing a comprehensive reporting system for all DOE employees to use when identifying CFSI components.