The NRC’s Structure

nrc hierarchy

The NRC is a large bureaucracy. It has many parts. Some move. Some don’t. This article will help you develop a general outline of its structure . . . .

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a group of five members who sit atop a large administrative bureaucracy (estimated to be around 3,919 employees in 2014).[1] The five members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The President designates one of those five people as the chairman. The chairman has “ultimate authority”[2] (and is therefore ultimately responsible) for all emergency matters that relate to any license holder, most of which are nuclear power plants. The commission’s responsibilities include protecting the public’s health and safety, the environment, and national security.

There are a series of committees, panels, and boards established by Congressional acts and at the discretion of the commission, and they report directly to the commission.[3] They inform the commission and recommend new regulations.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is the NRC’s judicial branch. It conducts licensing and other hearings brought before the commission. It staffs a full-time chief administrative judge and other full-time and part-time lesser judges who adjudicate legal disputes. The Rules Review and Directives Branch writes and assists others in writing the NRC regulations.

The Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation oversees much of the rulemaking associated with the nuclear power reactors. They develop policy for reactors, for example, by issuing orders or other rules.[4] Those orders and rules are enforceable under law by penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment, generally, and are ultimately enforceable by the President who can “utilize the services of any Government agency to the extent he may deem necessary or desirable.”[5] The Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (ONRR) also oversees plant inspections. The regional offices and resident inspectors report to the ONRR.


[1] 2014 Congressional Budget Justification, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, p. 6.

[2] 10 CFR 1.11(a)

[3] 10 CFR 1.11(c)

[4] 10 CFR 2.202

[5] Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended, Section 221(a). Accessed August 26, 2014 .

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