How We Regulate

A flow chart image showing the various components of How the NRC Reguates, and the sequence in which the regulating flows (using directional arrows); includes links to information on How We Regulate for each component of the flow chartOversight Support for Decisions Operational Experience Regulations and Guidance Licensing and Certification

This diagram gives an overview of the NRC's regulatory process, which has five main components: (1) developing regulations and guidance for our applicants and licensees, (2) licensing or certifying applicants to use nuclear materials or operate nuclear facilities or decommissioning that permits license termination, (3) overseeing licensee operations and facilities to ensure that licensees comply with safety requirements, (4) evaluating operational experience at licensed facilities or involving licensed activities, and (5) conducting research, holding hearings to address the concerns of parties affected by agency decisions, and obtaining independent reviews to support our regulatory decisions. The NRC also strives to improve its processes in these five areas through risk-informed and performance-based regulation.

The following activities are key components of our regulatory program.

Regulations and Guidance

Rulemaking – developing and amending regulations that licensees must meet to obtain or retain a license or certificate to use nuclear materials or operate a nuclear facility

Guidance Development – developing and revising guidance documents, such as regulatory guides, standard review plans, and NRC's Inspection Manual to aid licensees in meeting safety requirements

Generic Communications – sending applicants and licensees information about events or requests for information about regulatory requirements, some of which require response

Standards Development – working with industry standards organizations to develop consensus standards associated with systems, equipment, or materials used by the nuclear industry so that these standards may be referenced in NRC regulations or guidance

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Licensing, Decommissioning, and Certification

Licensing – authorizing an applicant to use or transport nuclear materials or to operate a nuclear facility (includes new licenses, renewals, amendments, transfers and related Topical Reports)

Decommissioning – removing a nuclear facility safely from service and reducing residual radioactivity to a level that permits termination of license

Certification – authorizing an applicant to manufacture spent fuel casks, transportation packages for nuclear materials, and sealed sources and devices and authorizing an applicant to operate a gaseous diffusion plant

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Inspection – verifying that a licensee's activities are properly conducted to ensure safe operations in accordance with NRC's regulations

Assessment of Performance (for operating facilities) – reviewing inspection findings, together with objective performance indicators, to assess the performance of nuclear facilities and determine appropriate agency action

Enforcement – issuing sanctions to licensees who violate NRC regulations

Allegations – responding to reports of wrongdoing by NRC licensees, applicants for licenses, or licensee contractors or vendors

Investigations – investigating wrongdoing by NRC licensees

Incident Response – Maintain the readiness and capabilities of the NRC Headquarters Operations Center and Regional Incident Response Centers, which coordinate and monitor the agency's response to incidents, reportable conditions, and licensees' actions to ensure safety at their facilities

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Operational Experience

Events Assessment – daily review and long term trend analysis of accidents and other reportable incidents to determine the appropriate regulatory response

Generic Issues – identifying and resolving safety issues that affect more than one licensed facility

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Support for Decisions

Research Activities – experiments, technical studies, and analyses to help the NRC make realistic decisions, assess the safety-significance of potential technical issues, and prepare the agency for the future by evaluating potential safety issues involving new designs and technologies

Risk Assessment – use of risk analysis methods and performance insight to support decision making throughout the regulatory process

Performance Assessment (for waste disposal and decommissioning) – evaluating potential releases of radioactivity into the environment, and assessing the resultant radiological doses to demonstrate whether a disposal facility has met its performance objectives

Advisory Activities – review and assessment of regulatory proposals by independent advisory bodies reporting to or chartered by the Commission or chartered by the NRC's Executive Director for Operations

  • CRGR Reviews – review and assessment of proposed generic backfits by the Committee To Review Generic Requirements (CRGR), an independent advisory committee chartered by the NRC's Executive Director for Operations

Adjudication – listening to concerns of parties affected by licensing or enforcement actions in a legal setting

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