The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent regulatory agency established to oversee the civilian use of nuclear power in the U.S. The NRC was established under the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 and the Executive Order No. 11834 of January 15, 1975. The NRC was assigned all the licensing and related regulatory functions which were formerly assigned to the Atomic Energy Commission[i].
The NRC was established to oversee:
- reactor safety and security;
- reactor licensing and renewal;
- radioactive material safety;
- security and licensing; and
- spent fuel management including storage, security, recycling, and disposal.
Generally, the NRC consists of five members. The President appoints the entire five members of the NRC. One among the five members is designated as the chairman and spokesperson.
The NRC has four regional offices. The headquarters of NRC are located at suburban Maryland. The major program components of the NRC are the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, and the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research.
The functions of the NRC are:
- to protect public health, safety and the environment;
- to issue license to persons and companies for building and operating nuclear reactors and other facilities and to own and use nuclear materials;
- to make, implement rules and regulations, and to set standards for licensed nuclear activities;
- to inspect the activities of the licensed persons and companies, to ensure that they do not violate the safety rules;
- to conduct the U.S. government research program on light-water reactor safety;
- to investigate nuclear incidents and allegations concerning any matter regulated by them;
- to maintain the NRC Incident Response Program;
- to collect, analyze, and disseminate information about the operational safety of commercial nuclear power reactors and certain nonreactor activities; and
- to develop effective working relationships with the states regarding reactor operations and the regulation of nuclear material, including the assurance that states exercising regulatory control over certain nuclear materials in the state maintains adequate regulatory programs.
The NRC’s chief operating officer is the Executive Director for Operations (Director). The functions of the Director are:
- to carry out the policies and decisions of the NRC;
- to supervise and coordinate the policy development, agency operational activities, and implementation of the NRC policy directives;
- to oversee the various NRC offices; and
- to discharge the operational and administrative functions necessary for the day-to-day operations of the agency.
The NRC is the exclusive owner of the special nuclear material production facility. However, their ownership does not extend to certain research facilities, licensed facilities, and facilities owned by the U.S. Enrichment Corporation[ii].
The energy produced at facilities owned by the NRC can either be used by them or it can be transferred to other government agencies. The NRC can also sell such energy at reasonable and nondiscriminatory prices to publicly, cooperatively, or privately owned utilities or users[iii].
The NRC can also:
- distribute special nuclear material;
- sell, or lease source material or by-product material to qualified applicants; and
- produce, or contract to produce special nuclear material in its own facilities in compliance with the security restrictions imposed by statute.
[i] 42 USCS § 5841.
[ii] 42 USCS § 2061.
[iii] 42 USCS § 2064.