The Safe Operation of Nuclear Plants: Implementing Federal Policy in the Aftermath of Three Mile Island

March 1984 (VOL. 2, NO. 1)

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The safe operation of nuclear power plants represents an important class of problems in the implementation of regulatory policy. These problems are characterized by a low tolerance for terror, high organizational and technical complexity, and highly visible, costly outcomes. The key to designing policies that address these problems is not to predict and regulate every possible source of error, but to design incentives such that organizations create their own error-detecting and solving systems. The current policy toward nuclear plant safety stresses technical and regulatory solutions at the expense of financial incentives that would induce utilities and plant personnel to engage in safe operation.