10 Things You Didn't Know About the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees nuclear plant security and safety.

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1. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. The commission absorbed the regulatory powers of what had been the unsuccessful and highly criticized Atomic Energy Commission.

2. The NRC began operation on Jan. 19, 1975.

3. The commission is designed to be an independent regulator of nuclear material and nuclear power used commercially.

4. On March 28, 1979, an incident at the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania caused about half of the reactor core in one unit to melt. It was deemed the worst nuclear power accident in the United States.

5. The NRC is made up of five commissioners, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve staggered five-year terms. No more than three commissioners can be from the same political party.

6. The president selects one commissioner to serve as chairman and official spokesperson. The current chairman is Gregory Jaczko.

7. The NRC has inspectors assigned to 65 nuclear power plant sites and three fuel facilities.

8. The NRC's budget for the 2010 fiscal year was $1.07 billion, over three quarters of which was spent to ensure the safety of nuclear reactors.

9. The NRC does not have the authority to regulate nuclear weapons or lobby for nuclear power.

10. In March 2011, after a tsunami triggered nuclear power plant explosions in Japan, the NRC dispatched experts to provide advice and assistance in the effort to shut down the reactors. The agency is also monitoring events from its headquarters.