Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Agency overview
FormedJanuary 19, 1975; 49 years ago (1975-01-19)
Preceding agency
HeadquartersNorth Bethesda, Maryland
Employees2,868 (2021)[1]
Annual budget$879 million (2021) [1]
Agency executive

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent agency of the United States government tasked with protecting public health and safety related to nuclear energy. Established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, the NRC began operations on January 19, 1975, as one of two successor agencies to the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Its functions include overseeing reactor safety and security, administering reactor licensing and renewal, licensing radioactive materials, radionuclide safety, and managing the storage, security, recycling, and disposal of spent fuel.


The commission meets in 2021

Prior to 1975 the Atomic Energy Commission was in charge of matters regarding radionuclides. The AEC was dissolved, because it was perceived as unduly favoring the industry it was charged with regulating.[2] The NRC was formed as an independent commission to oversee nuclear energy matters, oversight of nuclear medicine, and nuclear safety and security.

The U.S. AEC became the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) in 1975, responsible for development and oversight of nuclear weapons. Research and promotion of civil uses of radioactive materials, such as for nuclear non-destructive testing, nuclear medicine, and nuclear power, was split into the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science & Technology within ERDA by the same act. In 1977, ERDA became the United States Department of Energy (DOE). In 2000, the National Nuclear Security Administration was created as a subcomponent of DOE, responsible for nuclear weapons.[3]

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the NRC developed a guidance strategy known as "Diverse and Flexible Coping Strategies (FLEX)" which requires licensee nuclear power plants to account for beyond-design-basis external events (seismic, flooding, high-winds, etc.) that are most impactful to reactor safety through loss of power and loss of ultimate heat sink. FLEX Strategies have been implemented at all operating nuclear power plants in the United States.[4]

The origins and development of NRC regulatory processes and policies are explained in five volumes of history published by the University of California Press. These are:[3]

The NRC has produced a booklet, A Short History of Nuclear Regulation 1946–2009, which outlines key issues in NRC history.[5] Thomas Wellock, a former academic, is the NRC historian. Before joining the NRC, Wellock wrote Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958–1978.[3]

Mission and commissioners

The NRC's mission is to regulate the nation's civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment. The NRC's regulatory mission covers three main areas[citation needed]:

The NRC is headed by five commissioners appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate for five-year terms. One of them is designated by the president to be the chairman and official spokesperson of the commission.

The current chairman is Christopher T. Hanson. President Biden designated Hanson as chairman of the NRC effective January 20, 2021.[6]

List of chairmen

No. Name (chair) Photo Term of office Appointed by
1 Bill Anders January 19, 1975 April 20, 1976 Gerald Ford
2 Marcus A. Rowden January 19, 1975 January 15, 1977
3 Joseph M. Hendrie March 3, 1977 December 7, 1979 Jimmy Carter
4 John F. Ahearne December 7, 1979 March 2, 1981
5 Nunzio J. Palladino July 1, 1981 June 30, 1986 Ronald Reagan
6 Lando W. Zech Jr. July 1, 1986 June 3, 1989
7 Kenneth Monroe Carr July 1, 1989 June 30, 1991 George H.W Bush
8 Ivan Selin July 1, 1991 June 30, 1995
9 Shirley Ann Jackson July 1, 1995 June 30, 1999 Bill Clinton
10 Richard Meserve October 29, 1999 March 31, 2003
11 Nils J. Diaz April 1, 2003 June 30, 2006 George W. Bush
12 Dale E. Klein July 1, 2006 May 13, 2009
13 Gregory Jaczko May 13, 2009 July 9, 2012 Barack Obama
14 Allison Macfarlane July 9, 2012 December 31, 2014
15 Stephen G. Burns[8] January 1, 2015 January 23, 2017
16 Kristine Svinicki[9] January 23, 2017 January 20, 2021 Donald Trump
17 Christopher T. Hanson[6] January 20, 2021 Incumbent Joe Biden

List of commissioners

Portrait Commissioner Took office Left office
Marcus A. Rowden January 19, 1975 April 20, 1977
Edward A. Mason January 19, 1975 January 15, 1977
Victor Gilinsky January 19, 1975 June 30, 1984
Richard T. Kennedy January 19, 1975 June 30, 1980
Joseph Hendrie August 9, 1977 June 30, 1981
Peter A. Bradford August 15, 1977 March 12, 1982
John F. Ahearne July 31, 1978 June 30, 1983
Nunzio J. Palladiono July 1, 1981 June 30, 1986
Thomas M. Roberts August 3, 1981 June 30, 1990
James K. Asselstine May 17, 1982 June 30, 1987
Frederick M. Bernthal August 4, 1983 June 30, 1988
Lando W. Zech Jr. July 3, 1984 June 30, 1989
Kenneth Monroe Carr August 14, 1986 June 30, 1991
Kenneth C. Rogers August 7, 1987 June 30, 1997
James R. Curtiss October 20, 1988 June 30, 1993
Forrest J. Remick December 1, 1989 June 30, 1994
Ivan Selin July 1, 1991 June 30, 1995
E. Gail de Planque December 16, 1991 June 30, 1995
Shirley Ann Jackson May 2, 1995 June 30, 1999
Greta J. Dicus February 15, 1996 June 30, 2003
Nils J. Diaz August 23, 1996 June 30, 2006
Edward McGaffigan Jr. August 28, 1996 September 2, 2007
Jeffrey S. Merrifield October 23, 1998 June 30, 2007
Richard Meserve October 29, 1999 March 31, 2003
Gregory Jaczko January 21, 2005 July 9, 2012
Peter B. Lyons January 25, 2005 June 30, 2009
Dale E. Klein July 1, 2006 March 29, 2010
Kristine Svinicki March 28, 2008 January 20, 2021
George Apostolakis March 29, 2010 June 30, 2014
William D. Magwood IV March 29, 2010 August 31, 2014
William C. Ostendorff March 29, 2010 June 30, 2016
Allison Macfarlane July 9, 2012 December 31, 2014
Jeff Baran October 14, 2014 June 30, 2023
Stephen G. Burns November 4, 2014 April 30, 2019
Annie Caputo May 29, 2018 June 30, 2021
David A. Wright May 30, 2018 Present
Christopher T. Hanson June 8, 2020 Present
Annie Caputo August 9, 2022 Present
Bradley Crowell August 26, 2022 Present

Current commissioners

Name Party Took office Term expires
Christopher T. Hanson (Chair) Democratic June 8, 2020 June 30, 2029
David A. Wright Republican May 30, 2018 June 30, 2025
Annie Caputo Republican August 9, 2022 June 30, 2026
Bradley Crowell Democratic August 26, 2022 June 30, 2027


NRC Organizational Chart in February 2019
The three building that comprise NRC's North Bethesda campus, with North Bethesda station in the right bottom corner

The NRC consists of the commission on the one hand and offices of the executive director for Operations on the other.[11] The commission is divided into two committees (Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and Advisory Committee on the Medical Uses of Isotopes) and one Board, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, as well as eight commission staff offices (Office of Commission Appellate Adjudication, Office of Congressional Affairs, Office of the General Counsel, Office of International Programs, Office of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Executive Director for Operations).

Christopher T. Hanson is the chairman of the NRC.[12] There are 14 Executive Director for Operations offices: Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research, Office of Enforcement, which investigates reports by nuclear power whistleblowers, specifically the Allegations Program,[13] Office of Investigations, Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, Region I, Region II, Region III, Region IV, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of Administration, Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, and Office of Small Business and Civil Rights.

Of these operations offices, NRC's major program components are the first two offices mentioned above.

NRC's proposed FY 2015 budget is $1,059.5 million, with 3,895.9 full-time equivalents (FTE), 90 percent of which is recovered by fees. This is an increase of $3.6 million, including 65.1 FTE, compared to FY 2014.[14]

NRC headquarters offices are located in unincorporated North Bethesda, Maryland (although the mailing address for two of the three main buildings in the complex list the city as Rockville, MD), and there are four regional offices.


Main article: Regions of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Map of the NRC regions

The NRC territory is broken down into four geographical regions; until the late 1990s, there was a Region V office in Walnut Creek, California which was absorbed into Region IV, and Region V was dissolved.

In these four regions NRC oversees the operation of US nuclear reactors, namely 94 power-producing reactors,[15] and 31 non-power-producing, or research and test reactors.[16] Oversight is done on several levels. For example:

Recordkeeping system

NRC has a library, which also contains online document collections.[17] In 1984 it started an electronic repository called ADAMS, the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System.[18] for its public inspection reports, correspondence, and other technical documents written by NRC staff, contractors, and licensees. It has been upgraded in October 2010 and is now webbased. Of documents from 1980 to 1999 only some have abstracts and/or full text, most are citations. Documents from before 1980 are available in paper or microfiche formats. Copies of these older documents or classified documents can be applied for with a FOIA request.

Training and accreditation

Commission headquarters

NRC conducts audits and training inspections, observes the National Nuclear Accrediting Board meetings, and nominates some members.

The 1980 Kemeny Commission's report[19] after the Three Mile Island accident recommended that the nuclear energy industry "set and police its own standards of excellence".[20] The nuclear industry founded the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) within 9 months to establish personnel training and qualification. The industry through INPO created the 'National Academy for Nuclear Training Program' either as early as 1980[21] or in September 1985 per the International Atomic Energy Agency.[22] INPO refers to NANT as "our National Academy for Nuclear Training" on its website.[23] NANT integrates and standardizes the training programs of INPO and US nuclear energy companies, offers training scholarships and interacts with the 'National Nuclear Accrediting Board'. This Board is closely related to the National Academy for Nuclear Training, not a government body, and referred to as independent by INPO,[23] the Nuclear Energy Institute, and nuclear utilities.[24] but not by the NRC, all of whom are represented on the board.

The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act directed NRC in Section 306 to issue regulations or "other appropriate regulatory guidance" on training of nuclear plant personnel. Since the nuclear industry already had developed training and accreditation, NRC issued a policy statement in 1985, endorsing the INPO program. NRC has a memorandum of agreement with INPO and "monitors INPO activities by observing accreditation team visits and the monthly NNAB meetings".[25]

In 1993, NRC endorsed the industry's approach to training that had been used for nearly a decade through its 'Training Rule'.[26] In February 1994, NRC passed the 'Operator Requalification Rule' 59 FR 5938, Feb. 9, 1994,[27] allowing each nuclear power plant company to conduct the operator licensing renewal examination every six years, eliminating the requirement of NRC-administered written requalification examination.

In 1999, NRC issued a final rule on operator initial licensing examination,[28] that allows companies to prepare, proctor, and grade their own operator initial licensing examinations. Facilities can "upon written request" continue to have the examinations prepared and administered by NRC staff, but if a company volunteers to prepare the examination, NRC continues to approve and administer it.[29]

Since 2000 meetings between NRC and applicants or licensees have been open to the public.[30]

Prospective nuclear units

Main article: Nuclear renaissance in the United States

Between 2007 and 2009, 13 companies applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for construction and operating licenses to build 25 new nuclear power reactors in the United States. However, the case for widespread nuclear plant construction was eroded due to abundant natural gas supplies.[31][32] Many license applications for proposed new reactors were suspended or cancelled.[33][34] These will not be the cheapest energy options available, therefore not an attractive investment.[35][36][37] In 2013, four reactors were permanently closed: San Onofre 2 and 3 in California, Crystal River 3 in Florida, and Kewaunee in Wisconsin.[38][39] Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, was shut down on December 29, 2014. New York state eventually closed Indian Point Energy Center, in Buchanan, 30 miles from New York City, on April 30, 2021.[39]

In 2019 the NRC approved a second 20-year license extension for Turkey Point units 3 and 4, the first time NRC had extended licenses to 80 years total lifetime. Similar extensions for about 20 reactors are planned or intended, with more expected in the future. This will reduce demand for replacement new builds.[40]

Controversy, concerns, and criticisms

Byrne and Hoffman wrote in 1996, that since the 1980s the NRC has generally favored the interests of nuclear industry, and been unduly responsive to industry concerns, while failing to pursue tough regulation. The NRC has often sought to hamper or deny public access to the regulatory process, and created new barriers to public participation.[41]

Barack Obama, when running for president in 2007, said that the five-member NRC had become "captive of the industries that it regulates".[42]

Numerous different observers have criticized the NRC as an example of regulatory capture[42][43] The NRC has been accused of having conflicting roles as regulator and "salesman" in a 2011 Reuters article,[44] doing an inadequate job by the Union of Concerned Scientists,[45] and the agency approval process has been called a "rubber stamp".[46]

Frank N. von Hippel wrote in March 2011, that despite the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania, the NRC has often been too timid in ensuring that America's commercial reactors are operated safely:

Nuclear power regulation is a textbook example of the problem of "regulatory capture" — in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it. Regulatory capture can be countered only by vigorous public scrutiny and Congressional oversight, but in the 32 years since Three Mile Island, interest in nuclear regulation has declined precipitously.[47]

An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stated that many forms of NRC regulatory failure exist, including regulations ignored by the common consent of NRC and industry:

A worker (named George Galatis) at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Connecticut kept warning management, that the spent fuel rods were being put too quickly into the spent storage pool and that the number of rods in the pool exceeded specifications. Management ignored him, so he went directly to the NRC, which eventually admitted that it knew of both of the forbidden practices, which happened at many plants, but chose to ignore them. The whistleblower was fired and blacklisted.[48]

Terrorism concerns and threats

NRC headquarters outside Rockville, Maryland

Terrorist attacks such as those executed by al-Qaeda on New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, and in London on July 7, 2005, have prompted fears that extremist groups might use radioactive dirty bombs in further attacks in the United States and elsewhere.[49][50][51] In March 2007, undercover investigators from the Government Accountability Office set up a false company and obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a dirty bomb. According to the GAO report, NRC officials did not visit the company or attempt to personally interview its executives. Instead, within 28 days, the NRC mailed the license to the West Virginia postal box. Upon receipt of the license, GAO officials were able to easily modify its stipulations and remove a limit on the amount of radioactive material they could buy. A spokesman for the NRC said that the agency considered the radioactive devices a "lower-level threat"; a bomb built with the materials could have contaminated an area about the length of a city block but would not have presented an immediate health hazard.[52]

1987 congressional report

Twelve years into NRC operations, a 1987 congressional report entitled "NRC Coziness with Industry"[53] concluded, that the NRC "has not maintained an arms length regulatory posture with the commercial nuclear power industry ... [and] has, in some critical areas, abdicated its role as a regulator altogether".[2] To cite three examples:

A 1986 Congressional report found that NRC staff had provided valuable technical assistance to the utility seeking an operating license for the controversial Seabrook plant. In the late 1980s, the NRC 'created a policy' of non-enforcement by asserting its discretion not to enforce license conditions; between September 1989 and 1994, the 'NRC has either waived or chosen not to enforce regulations at nuclear power reactors over 340 times'. Finally, critics charge that the NRC has ceded important aspects of regulatory authority to the industry's own Institute for Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), an organization formed by utilities in response to the Three Mile Island Accident.[2]

Nuclear Reactor License Renewal Program

One example involves the license renewal program that NRC initiated to extend the operating licenses for the nation's fleet of commercial nuclear reactors. Environmental impact statements (EIS) were prepared for each reactor to extend the operational period from 40 to 60 years. One study examined the EISs and found significant flaws, included failure to consider significant issues of concern.[54] It also found that the NRC management had significantly underestimated the risk and consequences posed by a severe reactor accident such as a full-scale nuclear meltdown. NRC management asserted, without scientific evidence, that the risk of such accidents were so "Small" that the impacts could be dismissed and therefore no analysis of human and environmental was even performed. Such a conclusion is scientifically indefensible given the experience of the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima accidents. Another finding was that NRC had concealed the risk posed to the public at large by disregarding one of the most important EIS requirements, mandating that cumulative impacts be assessed (40 Code of Federal Regulations §1508.7). By disregarding this basic requirement, NRC effectively misrepresented the risk posed to the nation by approximately two orders of magnitude (i.e., the true risk is about 100 greater than NRC represented). These findings were collaborated in a final report prepared by a special Washington State Legislature Nuclear Power Task Force, titled, "Doesn't NRC Address Consequences of Severe Accidents in EISs for re-licensing?"[55][54][56][57]


In Vermont, the day before the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the NRC approved a 20-year extension for the license of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, although the Vermont state legislature voted overwhelmingly to deny an extension.[46] The plant had been found to be leaking radioactive materials through a network of underground pipes, which Entergy had denied under oath even existed. At a hearing in 2009 Tony Klein, chairman of the Vermont House Natural Resources and Energy Committee had asked the NRC about the pipes and the NRC also did not know they existed.[46]

In March 2011, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a study critical of the NRC's 2010 performance as a regulator. The UCS said that over the years, it had found the NRC's enforcement of safety rules has not been "timely, consistent, or effective" and it cited 14 "near-misses" at U.S. plants in 2010 alone.[58]

In April 2011, Reuters reported that diplomatic cables showed NRC sometimes being used as a sales tool to help push American technology to foreign governments, when "lobbying for the purchase of equipment made by Westinghouse Electric Company and other domestic manufacturers". This gives the appearance of a regulator which is acting in a commercial capacity, "raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest".[44]

San Clemente Green, an environmental group opposed to the continued operation of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant, said in 2011 that instead of being a watchdog, the NRC too often rules in favor of nuclear plant operators.[59][third-party source needed]

In 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami led to unprecedented damage and flooding of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The subsequent loss of offsite power and flooding of onsite emergency diesel generators led to loss of coolant and subsequent Nuclear meltdown of three reactor cores. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster led to an uncontrolled release of radioactive contamination, and forced the Japanese Government to evacuate approximately 100,000 citizens.[60]

Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the NRC when the 2011 Fukushima disaster occurred in Japan. Jaczko looked for lessons for the US, and strengthened security regulations for nuclear power plants. For example, he supported the requirement that new plants be able to withstand an aircraft crash.[26] On February 9, 2012, Jaczko cast the lone dissenting vote on plans to build the first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years when the NRC voted 4–1 to allow Atlanta-based Southern Co to build and operate two new nuclear power reactors at its existing Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia. He cited safety concerns stemming from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened".[61] In July 2011, Mark Cooper said that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is "on the defensive to prove it is doing its job of ensuring safety".[62] In October 2011, Jaczko described "a tension between wanting to move in a timely manner on regulatory questions, and not wanting to go too fast".[63]

In 2011 Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, criticized the NRC's response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the decision-making on the proposed Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design.[64][65]

In 2011, a total of 45 groups and individuals from across the nation formally asked the NRC to suspend all licensing and other activities at 21 proposed nuclear reactor projects in 15 states until the NRC completed a thorough post-Fukushima nuclear disaster examination:[66][67]

The petition seeks suspension of six existing reactor license renewal decisions (Columbia Generating Station, WA Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station, OH, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, CA, Indian Point Energy Center, NY, Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station, MA, and Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, NH); 13 new reactor combined construction permit and operating license decisions (Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station Units 3 and 4, AL, Bell Bend, Callaway Nuclear Generating Station, MO, Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Generating Station, MD, Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, TX, Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station, MI, Levy County Nuclear Power Plant, FL North Anna Nuclear Generating Station, VA, Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant, NC, South Texas Nuclear Generating Station, TX, Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, FL, Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, GA, and William States Lee III Nuclear Generating Station, SC);a construction permit decision (Bellefonte Units 1 and 2); and an operating license decision (Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station, TN). In addition, the petition asks the NRC to halt proceedings to approve the standardized AP1000 and Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor designs.[66]

The petitioners asked the NRC to supplement its own investigation by establishing an independent commission comparable to that set up in the wake of the less severe 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The petitioners included Public Citizen, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace.[66]

Intentionally concealing reports concerning the risks of flooding

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Following the Fukushima disaster, the NRC prepared a report in 2011 to examine the risk that dam failures posed on the nation's fleet of nuclear reactors. A redacted version of NRC's report on dam failures was posted on the NRC website on March 6. The original, un-redacted version was leaked to the public.

The un-redacted version which was leaked to the public highlights the threat that flooding poses to nuclear power plants located near large dams and substantiates claims that NRC management has intentionally misled the public for years about the severity of the flooding.

The leaked version of the report concluded that one-third of the U.S. nuclear fleet (34 plants) may face flooding hazards greater than they were designed to withstand. It also shows that NRC management was aware of some aspects of this risk for 15 years and yet it had done nothing to effectively address the problem. Some flooding events are so serious that they could result in a "severe" nuclear accident, up to, and including, a nuclear meltdown.

This criticism is collaborated by two NRC whistleblowers who accused their management of deliberately covering up information concerning the vulnerability of flooding, and of failing to take corrective actions despite being aware of these risks for years. Richard Perkins, a second risk engineer with the NRC and the lead author of the leaked report, filed a complaint with the agency's Inspector General, asserting that NRC staff had improperly redacted information from the public version of his report "to prevent the disclosure of this safety information to the public because it will embarrass the agency." Perkins wrote. "Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public."[68]

Larry Criscione, a second NRC risk engineer also raised concerns about the NRC withholding information concerning the risk of flooding. He stated that assertions by NRC's management that plants are "currently able to mitigate flooding events," was false.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and safety advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists: "The redacted information shows that the NRC is lying to the American public about the safety of U.S. reactors,"[68]

The Oconee Nuclear Station has been shown to be at particular risk from flooding. An NRC letter dated 2009 states that "a Jocassee Dam failure is a credible event" It goes on to state that "NRC staff expressed concerns that Duke has not demonstrated that the [null Oconee Nuclear Station] units will be adequately protected."[69]

NRC's 2011 leaked report notes that "dam failure incidents are common". NRC estimated the odds that dams constructed like Jocassee will fail is about 1 in 3,600 failures per year. Oconee is licensed to operate for another 20 years. The odds of the Jocassee Dam failing over that period are 1 in 180. NRC requires risks to be investigated if they have a frequency of more than 1 in 10,000 years. For a reactor operating over a period of 40 years, these risks must be evaluated if they have a chance greater than a 1 in 250 of occurring.

NRC identified 34 reactors that lie downstream from a total of more than 50 dams. More than half of these dams are roughly the size of the Jocassee dam. Assuming the NRC's failure rate applies to all of these dams, the chance that one will fail over the next 40 years is about one in four or 25 percent chance. This dam failure rate does not include risks posed by earthquakes or terrorism. Thus, the true probability may be much higher.[70]

This raised a second and potentially larger issue. NRC recently completed its license renewal program which extended the operating licenses of the nation's fleet of nuclear reactors for an additional 20 years. NRC stated that the probability of a severe accident is so incredible that the consequences can be dismissed from the analysis of impacts in its relicensing environmental impact statements (EIS). Yet this conflicts with NRC's internal analyses which concluded that flooding presented a serious human and environmental risk. Critics charge that if these relicensing EISs failed to evaluate the risks of flooding, then how can the public be confident that NRC did not mislead stakeholders concerning other risks such as the potential for a nuclear meltdown.

NRC officials stated in June 2011 that US nuclear safety rules do not adequately weigh the risk of a single event that would knock out electricity from the grid and from emergency generators, as a quake and tsunami did in Japan.[71] In October 2011, and NRC instructed agency staff to move forward with seven of the 12 safety recommendations put forward by a federal task force in July 2011. The recommendations include "new standards aimed at strengthening operators' ability to deal with a complete loss of power, ensuring plants can withstand floods and earthquakes and improving emergency response capabilities". The new safety standards will take up to five years to fully implement.[72]

In November 2011, Jaczko warned power companies against complacency and said the agency must "push ahead with new rules prompted by the nuclear crisis in Japan, while also resolving long-running issues involving fire protection and a new analysis of earthquake risks".[73]

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also been criticized for its reluctance to allow for innovation and experimentation, even controlled for and purportedly safe methods of deploying nuclear power that countries such as Poland are approving before the United States. As reported by Reason magazine in May 2022:

Oregon's NuScale Power signed an agreement with the Polish mining and processing firm KGHM to deploy NuScale's innovative small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Poland by 2029. At the U.N.'s Glasgow Climate Change Conference in November, NuScale contracted with a Romanian energy company to deploy its SMR technology in that country by 2028. NuScale has signed similar memoranda of understanding with electric power companies in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine.

This kind of advanced energy technology will likely be powering homes and businesses in Europe before the first reactor is completed in the United States. That's because the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in no hurry to help.[74]

Exceeding powers licensing off-site interim storage facility

In September 2021 the NRC issued a license for a privately operated temporary consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas. However a group including the State of Texas, which had passed a law in 2022 prohibiting the storage of high-level waste in the state, petitioned for a court review of the license. In August 2023 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the NRC does not have the authority from Congress under the Atomic Energy Act or the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to license such a temporary storage facility that is not at a nuclear power station or federal site, nullifying the purported license. Another CISF in New Mexico is similarly being challenged in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.[75][76]

See also


  1. ^ a b "NRC at a glance" (PDF). Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  2. ^ a b c John Byrne and Steven M. Hoffman (1996). Governing the Atom: The Politics of Risk, Transaction Publishers, p. 163.
  3. ^ a b c NRC (2013). "NRC history". NRC website.
  4. ^ "DIVERSE AND FLEXIBLE COPING STRATEGIES (FLEX) IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE" (PDF). NEI 12-06 Rev 4. Nuclear Energy Institute. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  5. ^ "NRC: A Short History of Nuclear Regulation, 1946–2009 (NUREG/BR-0175, Revision 2)". Retrieved 2018-03-04.
  6. ^ a b "Biden appoints new head of NRC". Nuclear Engineering International. 28 January 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  7. ^ "Former NRC Chairman". Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Stephen G. Burns". Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki". Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Former NRC Commissioners". Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Organization & Functions". website. NRC. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  12. ^ "NRC: The Commission". Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  13. ^ "Allegations". NRC. 28 June 2013.
  14. ^ "Congressional Budget Justification: Fiscal Year 2015 (NUREG-1100, Volume 30)". NUREG-1100, Volume 30. NRC. March 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  15. ^ "Power Reactors".
  16. ^ "Map of Research and Test Reactor Sites".
  17. ^ "NRC Document Collections". website. NRC. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  18. ^ "FAQ About the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System". website. NRC. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  19. ^ US Congress. House Committee on Science and Technology. Subcommittee on Energy Research and Production, US President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island (1980). "Kemeny Commission findings: Oversight". Committee Report. U.S. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 40–129. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  20. ^ Lanouette, William (January 1980). "The Kemeny Commission Report". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 36 (1): 20–24. Bibcode:1980BuAtS..36a..20L. doi:10.1080/00963402.1980.11458680. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  21. ^ NEI (2014). "National Academy for Nuclear Training Program". websute. Nuclear Energy Institute Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  22. ^ Pate, Zack T. (Autumn 1986). "INPO's impact in the USA". International Atomic Energy Agency Bulletin. International Atomic Energy Agency: 60–62.
  23. ^ a b Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) (2012). "About us". website. Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO).
  24. ^ "PG&E Senior Vice President Appointed to National Nuclear Accrediting Board". website. Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014. The independent National Nuclear Accrediting Board evaluates operator and technical training programs for nuclear plants throughout the industry, ensuring that accredited training programs meet the highest standards for excellence and incorporate best practices.
  25. ^ NRC (September 2001). "The United States of America National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety". NUREG-1650. NRC. pp. 11–15. Retrieved 21 May 2014. In accordance with its memorandum of agreement with the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), the NRC monitors INPO accreditation activities as part of its assessment of the effectiveness of the industry's training programs. (The NRC also monitors the selected performance areas of its licensees as part of its assessment.) The NRC monitors INPO activities by observing accreditation team visits and the monthly National Nuclear Accrediting Board meetings.
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