Nuclear Energy has found many positive uses worldwide. The use of nuclear energy has not only been to generate electricity but it has also been widely used in medicine and research. The process of nuclear energy production involves breaking up atoms through chain reactions which need to be monitored and controlled with precision as uncontrolled reactions can lead to disaster. Also, the waste produced as a result of the reaction is extremely dangerous for public health and the environment and cannot be disposed of with proper treatment and handling. These critical issues have prompted countries to develop standards and procedures to safely employ this technology as well as bodies to regulate them. In the United States, the use of nuclear technology is regulated by Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was created in 1974 by the US Congress to facilitate and ensure that the radioactive material used in the industry remains under protection and is disposed of safely. The purpose of this strict control is to arrange its use for civilian purposes and to provide protection to the people of the United States and its environment at the same time.
The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants as well as the use of nuclear material for other purposes, such as in medicine. It does that through licensing, inspection, and enforcement of its requirements (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
Functions of NRC
Direction Setting and Policy Making
One of the major responsibilities of NRC is the policy-making and regulation development regarding nuclear reactors, nuclear material safety, and issuance of orders to licensees, and the adjudication of legal matters. The commission is headed by five commissioners who make a decision using the issue papers written by the NRC staff to the commission. These issues are also discussed in meetings with the commission. Decisions are made by majority vote (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
Regulation of Nuclear Reactors
The NRC regulates both commercial power reactors as well as scientific research and test reactors. This is carried out by NRC to ensure that existing reactors follow the guidelines and regulatory requirements for different aspects of registration, safety, and compliance with international bodies. For new reactors, it reviews the applications submitted by prospective licensees and issues certifications for standard designs, work authorizations, site, and work permits as well as operating and combines licenses, when appropriate (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
Regulation of Nuclear Material
The NRC also regulates the uses of radioactive material which includes Special Nuclear Materials such as Plutonium, Source Materials such as uranium that is not suitable for reactor use, and byproduct materials such as nuclear material which is made radioactive in the reactor and the waste produced from a processed ore. NRC’s regulatory activities for nuclear materials include the administration of activities related to the use of nuclear materials in medicine, industry, and academic institutions. The NRC also regulates source material extraction, Uranium Recovery, and Fuel cycle facilities by providing guidance, communications, and oversight, enforcing regulations, and through licensing. It also works with the Department of Transportation to regulate the safe movement of radioactive material in the US (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
Regulation of Nuclear Waste
The movement, storage, and disposal of radioactive waste are also overseen by the NRC. This nuclear waste includes Low-level waste such as contaminated clothes, tools, and other items, waste byproducts from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, High-level waste such as used nuclear fuel and Uranium mill tailings. The NRC regulatory activities for nuclear waste include Low-level and High-level waste disposal, spent nuclear fuel storage using acceptable methods, and transportation of nuclear waste in the US (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
Regulation of Nuclear Security and Safeguards
Another important activity of NRC is the regulation of Nuclear Security and Safeguards through auditing of licensees accounting system for special nuclear and source material, and, through domestic safeguards, information security programs, and contingency plans (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
Development of Public Interest in Nuclear Rulemaking
The NRC greatly promotes the inclusion of the public in its regulatory processes. It welcomes public participation in its meetings and encourages public participation in rulemaking through Federal Register (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2009).
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is an independent agency that has been tasked by the US Congress to regulate the use of nuclear energy in a safe manner. It regulates nuclear reactors, sources, and waste materials through enforcement of its requirement and by providing guidelines, communications, and oversight to the licensees, thereby protecting the health and safety of the public and the environment.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2009). About NRC. Web.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, (2009). Nuclear Reactors. Web.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, (2009). Nuclear Materials. Web.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2009). Radioactive Waste. Web.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2008). Nuclear Safety and Safeguards. Web.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2008). Public Meetings and Involvement. Web.