from http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/about.html:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent agency established by the U.S. Congress under the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to ensure adequate protection of the public health and safety, the common defense and security, and the environment in the use of nuclear materials in the United States. The NRC's scope of responsibility includes regulation of--
  • commercial nuclear power reactors; nonpower research, test, and training reactors
  • fuel cycle facilities; medical, academic, and industrial uses of nuclear materials
  • the transport, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a government agency, much like the EPA. Unlike the EPA, the NRC is controlled not by a politically appointed Secretary or director, but instead by a group of commmissioners, who, although appointed, cannot be fired by the President. The political controlling force is instead Congress, which determines the NRC's funding level from year to year.

Having worked at the NRC for two years, I found that it was both more and less than what you would expect from their web site description.

On the one hand, there are many talented professionals working for the NRC. They do improve safety when they can, especially resident inspectors, who are in direct contact with the nuclear power plants.

However, to a large degree, these engineers are far outnumbered by managers and bureaucrats who are not as fanatic about public safety and in fact are far more interested in advancing to the coveted SES career level, which is even higher than GS-15.

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