Who's Responsible for Nuclear Power Safety?

Published Jul 21, 2014 Updated Feb 13, 2017

Steam rising from nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Since 1975, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been the primary regulator of commercial nuclear power in the United States. This independent federal agency is responsible for nuclear power plant safety, security and licensing, as well as the safe handling, transportation and storage of radioactive materials, including spent nuclear fuel.

An oversight team inside of a nuclear power plant.
Xcel Energy

Holding the regulator accountable

UCS is the nation’s most respected, authoritative nuclear power safety advocate. For decades, we have held the NRC’s actions (or inaction) up to public scrutiny. We have pressed the agency to enforce its regulations and brought our expertise to the commission and its staff, offering concrete proposals on how to address known safety and security shortcomings at the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Our nuclear power experts have worked on a non-partisan basis with Congress and the executive branch, urging them to provide appropriate statutory oversight of the NRC and to press the agency to better protect the public. Our experts provide ongoing analysis and commentary on the NRC’s safety performance through regular backgrounders and reports, correspondence, written commentary, and congressional and NRC testimony.

Local and state voices

While nuclear power safety regulation is legally a federal responsibility, the communities and states that host nuclear power plants have an essential voice and role. Indeed, in the event of a nuclear accident, the lives and livelihoods of the people who live close to these facilities will be most affected.

With this in mind, UCS regularly works with local and state officials, including state legislators, county commissioners, and state agency and municipal officials, who share responsibility for public health and safety and are a crucial part of emergency planning and preparedness efforts. Moreover, state and local officials, and the citizens they represent, can and should be a powerful voice in persuading Congress and the NRC to address safety concerns that affect their communities.

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