Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was created as an independent agency by Congress in 1974 to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection, and enforcement of its requirements.

The NRC is headed by five Commissioners, all nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for staggered five-year terms. No more than three can be from the same political party. The President designates one member of the Commission to serve as Chairman and official spokesperson. The NRC employs approximately 3,000 people among its suburban Maryland headquarters and four regional offices in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas including at least two resident inspectors at each nuclear power plant site.

The NRC’s mission is to license and regulate the Nation's civilian use of radioactive materials to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment.

What the NRC does:

Sets rules 
The NRC establishes rules that users of radioactive material must follow. These rules protect workers and the public from the potential hazards of radioactivity. Before writing or changing the regulations, the NRC solicits and considers the views of the public, industry representatives, researchers, state officials, scientists, and technical experts.

Any organization or individual intending to have or commercially use nuclear materials that are covered by the NRC’s programs must obtain a license from the NRC or an Agreement State (a State that has entered into an agreement with the NRC to regulate nuclear materials). These licenses specify the types and quantities of material, the activities it may be used for, and additional conditions.

The NRC inspects licensed facilities to ensure they meet regulations and the terms of their license. The NRC also investigates allegations of wrongdoing.

When violations are uncovered, the NRC can: 

  • Issue a notice of violation
  • Impose fines
  • Modify, suspend, or revoke a license for very serious instances of noncompliance 
  • Prohibit individuals who have engaged in deliberate misconduct from working in NRC jurisdiction
  • Refer apparent wrongdoing violations to the Department of Justice


The NRC collects and analyzes information about reported events at reactors and materials facilities to assess safety and identify any potential weaknesses in design, operations, procedures, or equipment. The NRC also identifies and addresses potential safety-related issues that are common among these facilities. 

Provides support 
Regulatory research provides technical advice, analytical tools, and information to support NRC decisions focusing on safety and security.

Incident response
The NRC maintains an active program to ensure readiness and response to an event at a nuclear facility potentially affecting public health and safety. Through response centers at its headquarters and regional offices, the NRC provides consultation, support, and assistance to licensees and public officials.

The NRC also regulates existing and new reactors, nuclear materials, nuclear waste, and security (including cyber security).