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US Office of the Inspector General issues scary warning about country's nuclear plants

The plants could contain counterfeit, fraudulent, and suspect items.

US Office of the Inspector General issues scary warning about country's nuclear plants
Aerial view of nuclear power plant. Dobresum/iStock

Nuclear power is seen by many experts as one of the key ways to transition to a low-emissions future.

Although some see the plants as dangerous, experts continue to argue that extremely safe power plants are possible.

A new report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), however, is casting doubts on those beliefs.

US power plants contain counterfeit parts

"Counterfeit, fraudulent, and suspect items (CFSI) are present in operating plants. We sampled a nuclear power plant in each of the NRC’s four regions and found data to support that CFSI are being used in a plant in Region III. In addition, a well-placed NRC principal told us about two CFSI component failures at Region I plants that the licensee determined to be CFSI," wrote the report's authors.

"A recent OIG audit report also revealed that CFSI are present at nuclear operating plants."

The CFSI pose security concerns that could have serious consequences, added the authors.

The NRC undertook the investigation after several unnamed individuals made claims that most nuclear plants had CFSI. The NRC also examined parts that were illegally altered to look legitimate.

The NRC referred to these parts as “intentionally misrepresented to deceive." Finally, the report highlighted how the Department of Energy had also identified 100 more incidents involving counterfeit parts in nuclear power plants in 2021.

Not an immediate safety concern

However, NRC Public Affairs Officer Scott Burnell told The Verge in an email that “nothing in the report suggests an immediate safety concern. The NRC’s office of the Executive Director for Operations is thoroughly reviewing the report and will direct the agency’s program offices to take appropriate action.”

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The NRC did not outline a future course of action but as the popularity of nuclear plants continues to grow some new measures will need to be undertaken. Whether these will thwart the development of nuclear or increase trust in the form of energy by guaranteeing all parts are safe and compliant is still uncertain.

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