Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
When it was decided that the dual responsibilities of promoting nuclear energy and regulating radiation safety in the United States created a conflict of interest for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the AEC was abolished by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. This act established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to be responsible for regulating nuclear safety and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) to handle the promotion of nuclear science (ERDA, along with other agencies, became the Department of Energy in 1977).
The mission of the NRC is to develop policies and rules for civilian use of nuclear reactors and materials. These policies and rules must serve the purposes of protecting people and the environment, encouraging security, and providing for the common defense. The NRC’s responsibilities may be divided into three main areas: reactors, materials, and waste. Reactor-related regulations cover both power reactors and reactors used for research or training. Materials-related regulations concern the facilities that produce nuclear fuel and the nuclear materials used in academic, industrial, and medical facilities. Waste-related regulations include those concerning the transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear waste and the decommissioning of nuclear facilities.
The U.S. Congress has passed many different laws since the NRC’s establishment that specify responsibilities of the agency and...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was established in 1975 under the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. The NRC’s parent agency, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), was responsible for promoting and regulating civilian uses of nuclear energy following the development of nuclear weapons technology during World War II. At the time, public policy regarded nuclear energy as a resource with unlimited potential, promising inexpensive electricity and negligible environmental impact.
Soon after the establishment of the AEC, critics saw a conflict between promoting nuclear energy and strictly regulating its safety, because the latter would lead to slower adoption of the technology. These concerns were eventually answered with the reorganization of 1974, which left the NRC with a mandate to protect public health and safety but without promotional responsibility. The NRC’s commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, serving staggered five-year terms. The agency has broad authority to regulate nuclear technology.
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Impact on Resource Use (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
NRC decisions have a major economic effect on the ability to replace conventional fuels with nuclear energy. If all safety measures proposed by environmental groups and nuclear critics were imposed, the money costs of nuclear power would usually be greater than those of alternative energy sources. Including only the safety measures considered necessary by the industry, money costs of nuclear power generally are less than those of alternatives. The NRC has regulatory responsibility for the disposal of nuclear power plant wastes, some of which remain significantly radioactive for thousands of years.
The NRC’s safety decisions are complicated by the nature of nuclear risk: A major accident at a nuclear facility is estimated to be highly unlikely but to have potentially catastrophic consequences. As long as an accident is possible, additional safety spending is justifiable to further lower the probability or lessen the consequences. However, at lower probabilities, further reductions in accident danger become more and more costly. The NRC’s legislative mandate calls for the organization to ensure public health and safety but provides no specific guidance on how far the mandate must be pursued.
NRC safety decisions have been criticized both by the nuclear industry and by environmental interests. The industry contends that NRC regulations have sometimes been unnecessary, counterproductive, and overly prescriptive...
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Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (Federal Agency Profiles)
PARENT ORGANIZATION: Independent
ESTABLISHED: January 19, 1975
ADDRESS: One White Flint N
11555 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
TDD (HEARING IMPAIRED): (301) 415-5575
FAX: (301) 415-5575
CHAIRMAN: Shirley Ann Jackson
COMMISSIONER: Greta J. Dicus
COMMISSIONER: Nils J. Diaz
COMMISSIONER: Edward McGaffigan, Jr.
COMMISSIONER: Kenneth C. Rogers
WHAT IS ITS MISSION?
The stated mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is to ensure adequate protection of the environment, public health, and safety in the civilian use of nuclear materials in the United States. The NRC also seeks to promote the nation's common defense and security. The commission regulates by-product, source, and special nuclear materials used by civilians in all types of applications, from nuclear power reactors to nuclear medicine programs at hospitals. It also seeks to improve its regulatory function through the application of research findings.
HOW IS IT STRUCTURED?
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Nuclear Regulatory Commission (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent regulatory agency that oversees the civilian use of NUCLEAR POWER in the
United States. It licenses and regulates the uses of nuclear energy to protect public health and safety, and the environment. The NRC's prime responsibility is to ensure that the more than 100 commercial nuclear power plants in the United States conform to its regulations. It also regulates the use of nuclear materials in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, in sterilizing instruments, in smoke detectors, and in gauges used to detect explosives in luggage at airports.
The NRC was established under the provisions of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C.A. §5801) and EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 11,834 of January 15, 1975 (40 Fed. Reg. 2971). These actions dissolved the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and transferred the AEC's licensing and regulatory functions to the NRC. The AEC, which had both regulated and promoted nuclear power, fell out of favor because of these conflicting roles. Congress believed that the NRC, which has only a regulatory function, would better protect public health and safety, because it has no direct interest in the promotion of nuclear energy. The 1974 act also created the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) to handle the...
(The entire section is 1093 words.)