Key findings

  • Despite a commonplace threat from fires, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hardly ever issues serious penalties, opting instead for voluntary compliance and slaps on the wrist.
  • Unresolved fire hazards persist at nuclear plants even when the NRC extends their operating licenses. Regulators allow many utilities to make do, sometimes for years, with "temporary" fixes to known fire threats.
  • The NRC knowingly has for more than two decades allowed utilities to rely on faulty fireproofing insulation, which remains installed at many plants.
  • Regulators have taken meager steps to remedy identified shortcomings even at nuclear plants where multiple fires have occurred.
  • For more than 30 years the NRC has been routinely granting exemptions to reactor fire regulations -- so often that utilities often don't bother asking for them.
  • Even as regulators push for "risk-based" fire protection rather than strict fire codes for equipment, some supporting data is still unavailable or being challenged as unreliable.