As part of its inquiry, the inspector general’s office looked for parts that are illegally altered to look like legitimate products, parts that are “intentionally misrepresented to deceive,” and parts that don’t meet product specifications. It sampled four power plants across the US and found evidence of counterfeit parts at one of those plants in the midwest. It also points to nuclear power plants in the Northeast, separate from those it sampled, where a “well-placed NRC principal” found that counterfeit parts were involved in two separate component failures.
The NRC might be underestimating the prevalence of counterfeit parts, the report warns, because the regulatory agency doesn’t have a robust system in place for tracking problematic parts. It only requires plants to report counterfeits in extraordinary circumstances, like if they lead to an emergency shutdown of a reactor. The report also notes that the NRC hasn’t thoroughly investigated all counterfeit allegations. There were 55 nuclear power plants operating in the US as of September 2021, and the inspector general’s office sampled just four for its report. 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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