OIG report confirms fake parts found in US nuclear plants

A US government report has found evidence that counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items (CFSI) are found in nuclear plants, raising the risk of system failures that could pose a safety hazard.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) sampled components from nuclear plants in each of the four regions operated by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and found evidence of CFSIs at a facility in the northern Midwest.

The report also indicates that a NRC executive reported two recent failures of components at plants in the northeast region, which were deemed to have resulted due to the presence of CFSIs.

"The potential number of CFSI cases, and the resulting impact on the nuclear fleet, is relatively small," according to the report. However, it goes on to say that the NRC may be underestimating the number of cases "because it does not require licensees to report CFSI except in extraordinary circumstances."

It also says that the components pose nuclear safety and security concerns that could have serious consequences for nuclear power plant equipment required to perform a safety function. CFSIs found at reactors have included emergency service water pump shafts, instruments used to identify steam line breaks, and breaker switches meant to prevent fires.

The finding comes after efforts by the NRC to introduce measures to stop CFSIs entering the supply chain, which were detailed in a report published in 2014 and included a series of regulations and guidances in recent years on topics such as staff training to spot counterfeits parts, along with information on specific threats such as fake fire protection equipment.

The OIG says that despite these measures there are potential gaps in the NRC's regulatory framework that have yet to be resolved. For its part, the NRC has said it is looking into the findings of the report.

It's not a problem confined to the US, as a few years back South Korea was forced to suspend multiple reactors after forged safety certificates were found. With the trend toward a more globalised supply chain for components, it has become harder to close down vulnerabilities.

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