Watching events unfold at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant over the past week have reminded me how little I really know about how nuclear power is regulated. While reading about and listening to commentary on the crisis has better acquainted me with the work and analysis of U.S. and international organizations that oversee and promote the operation of this technology, I still thought it might be useful for those of you who are interested, like me, in learning more on the issues to prepare a compilation of information and resources related to nuclear power laws, regulations and organizations.
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) – Established in 1974, the USNRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements.
Key U.S. Laws Governing the USNRC – Includes brief summaries of the laws and regulations.
- Atomic Energy Act of 1954, 42 U.S.C. Chapter 23 Development and Control of Atomic Energy
- Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, 42 USC 5801
- US Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1980 – Strengthened the executive and administrative roles of the USNRC Chairman, particularly in emergencies, transferring to the Chairman “all the functions vested in the Commission pertaining to an emergency concerning a particular facility or materials … regulated by the Commission.”
- Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as Amended
- Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985
- Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978
- National Environmental Policy Act This act established in the Executive Office of the President a Council on Environmental Quality, which has issued regulations on the preparation of environmental impact statements and on public participation in the preparation of the statements.
Nuclear Regulatory Legislation – A January, 2011 report prepared by the Office of the General Counsel of the USNRC. Includes a compilation of statutes and materials pertaining to nuclear regulatory policy legislation through the 111th Congress, 2nd Session. (Note: the Report is 500+ pages long.)
- United States Department of Energy Agency Directives – Search for directives related to U.S. nuclear power and facilities. Users may also sign up for RSS alert feeds.
United States Department of State, Office of Nuclear Energy Safety and Security – Among other charges, the Office’s role is to develop U.S. policy related to nuclear safety and the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities. The Office provides technical advice and recommendations on sensitive fuel cycle developments, in particular with regard to U.S. policy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and advises U.S. delegations to the IAEA and other international bodies on nuclear energy issues, including leading efforts to strengthen the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and the Waste Management Convention.
C-SPAN – Japan Nuclear Plant Crisis
- White House Briefing on Nuclear Regulations – Officials briefed reporters on nuclear power policy and regulations, March 14, 2011
- Hearings from the Senate Committee Environment and Public Works March 16, 2011 – Gregory Jacko (Chair, USNRC) and Bill Borchardt testified at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on U.S. efforts to assist the Japanese, as well as the preparedness of U.S. nuclear plants to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters.
- Safety of Nuclear Facilities in the United States March 21, 2001 – Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a meeting on Japan’s nuclear plant crisis to address the commission’s response, the potential threat of radiation exposure to U.S. territories, and the safety of U.S. reactors.
MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering Blog – Information about the incident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plants in Japan maintained by the students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) – UCS staff monitor and work to improve the safety and security provisions at existing nuclear power plants and the performance of the industry’s oversight body – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Nuclear Reactor Crisis in Japan FAQs
- ABCs of Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Disaster – Accident Terminology
- “The NRC and Nuclear Plan Safety in 2010” (March 2011) – This annual report published by the UCS is the first in an annual series on the safety-related performance of the owners of U.S. nuclear power plants and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates the plants.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) – Operators of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) – Responsible for the safety of nuclear energy in Japan. NISA has also issued threat assessments on the severity of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, now determined to be a Level 5 based on the seven level scale established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors or Electricity Business Act – NISA performs safety regulation of nuclear energy based on the Act.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – Created in 1957, the IAEA is an independent international organization related to the United Nations system and reports annually to the UN General Assembly and, when appropriate, to the Security Council regarding non-compliance by States with their safeguards obligations as well as on matters relating to international peace and security.
- IAEA – Convention on Nuclear Safety – The Convention’s aim is to legally commit participating states operating land-based nuclear power plants to maintain a high level of safety by setting international benchmarks to which states will subscribe.
- IAEA – Convention of Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident – Establishes a notification system for nuclear accidents which have the potential for international transboundary release that could be of radiological safety significance for another State.
- IAEA – Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency
- IAEA – Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management
- IAEA – Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
- IAEA – Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
- IAEA – Additional Conventions & Agreements – View more conventions and agreements on nuclear safety and security, science and technology, safeguards and verification, and organizational and cooperative agreements.
IAEA – States’ Participation in Major Nuclear Agreements – Helpful chart outlining signatories and parties to major nuclear agreements.
Bio of the IAEA’s Director General, Yukiya Amano
Worldwide List of Nuclear Reactors – The list includes plants that are under construction, fully operational and off-line or dismantled . Note source is Wikipedia and may need more authentication.