The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has an "unhealthy empathy" for the industry it regulates and is compromising public health and safety in its zeal to promote nuclear power, a House subcommittee report charged yesterday.

In a report summarizing a six-month investigation, the House Interior and Insular Affairs oversight subcommittee said commission members and top agency officials have repeatedly bowed to industry pressure on such critical issues as drug abuse and fire prevention in nuclear power plants.

The report also calls for the dismissal of NRC Commissioner Thomas M. Roberts, who is under Justice Department investigation in an incident involving the leak of confidential NRC documents from his office to a utility.

Three Democratic members signed the report; two Republican members signed a brief dissent calling it "overly critical and in some instances vicious."

NRC Chairman Lando W. Zech Jr. declined to comment directly on the report, saying he had not yet read it. He said, however, that nearly one in 10 U.S. nuclear plants is shut down for safety reasons. "Surely that is evidence that we are a tough regulator," he said.

Roberts said the report is "neither fair nor accurate" and the call for his ouster is "wholly unjustified."

"I have done nothing to warrant resignation," he said in a three-page statement.

The report urged President Reagan to dismiss Roberts for "malfeasance." In addition to questioning his handling of the document leak, the panel concluded that Roberts attempted to interfere with an investigation by the Office of Government Ethics, and once met, against the advice of government attorneys, with a lawyer for an NRC-licensed utility that was a defendant in a criminal case.

Roberts said he met with Office of Government Ethics Director David H. Martin "to advance his inquiry" into conflict-of-interest charges against the Tennessee Valley Authority's nuclear manager. He also defended his meeting with the utility lawyer, saying it was "inappropriate" for the House panel to suggest that a government official has a duty to favor the U.S. attorney over the defendant in a criminal lawsuit.

"Roberts is not the only culprit in the process. He's just the most outrageous," said panel chairman Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.).

Gejdenson joined a half-dozen members of Congress last spring in seeking Roberts' ouster, after the commissioner initially told a Senate panel that he had destroyed an investigator's notes about the leaked document and then later said he had found them.

The House report said that NRC has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for relying on industry self-regulation. "On a number of occasions, the NRC has acted as if it were the advocate for, and not the regulator of, the nuclear industry," it said.

The report cited NRC's decision last year to issue an unenforceable "policy statement" on drug and alcohol abuse at nuclear power plants, despite what agency officials identified as an "alarming increase" in drug-related incidents. The policy means that the NRC cannot issue penalties for drug-related safety problems.

In two cases examined by the panel, NRC inspectors turned over evidence of drug problems to plant operators, who took no corrective action. At one plant, the follow-up investigation was conducted by an industry employe who later was arrested for possession of drugs. Two other industry investigators were later indicted for taking kickbacks.

"They haven't dealt with it," Gejdenson said. "It's been a disaster, we think. We've got no idea what's going on there."

The report also accused the NRC of gutting a major rule designed to prevent fires from disabling safety equipment. The agency issued the rule in 1980 in response to a near-disaster at the Browns Ferry plant in Alabama, and it had survived a legal challenge by the industry.

But in 1985, the report said, top NRC officials agreed to write an "interpretation" of the rule that essentially allowed plant operators to decide for themselves what fire standards they should meet. The "interpretation" was issued in 1985, over the protests of agency fire experts and without any public notice.

Gejdenson said he believed the NRC's actions had undermined its credibility and, ultimately, will harm the nuclear power industry. "If we had another TMI {Three Mile Island}, we could end up shutting down every nuclear plant in the nation," he said. "And if the NRC told us it was an isolated incident, I don't think there are two members of Congress who would believe them."