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Operational Safety

Based on more than 50 years of experience, the U.S. nuclear industry continues to boast one of the safest industrial working environments in the nation. Through rigorous training of plant workers and increased communication and cooperation between nuclear plants and federal, state and local regulating bodies, the U.S. nuclear industry is keeping the nation’s 100 nuclear plants safe for their communities and the environment.

Federal and Industry Oversight of Plant Operations

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the commercial and institutional uses of nuclear energy, including nuclear power plants. The NRC monitors plant performance according to three strategic areas: reactor safety, radiation safety and security. Highly trained, independent NRC inspectors are onsite at each plant to provide oversight of plant operations, maintenance, equipment replacement and training. All plant performance results are available to the public on the NRC’s website.

Industry organizations also play a significant role in fostering safe, efficient nuclear power plant operation: 

World Association of Nuclear Operators

The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) is an international organization that consolidates the best practices and operating experiences of nuclear plants worldwide to enhance the safety and reliability of nuclear plants. WANO collects information annually on nuclear plant performance in the United States and around the world. The organization found that the U.S. nuclear industry had one of the safest industrial working environments in 2012, which led to high levels of operating efficiency.

Institute of Nuclear Power Operations

The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) promotes high levels of safety and reliability in U.S. nuclear plants by setting performance objectives, criteria and guidelines industrywide for nuclear plant operations, and by conducting regular evaluations of nuclear plants. INPO began monitoring performance indicators in 1981 following the Three Mile Island incident and formed the National Academy for Nuclear Training in 1985 to accredit nuclear utilities’ training programs for plant operators and supervisors of operations.

Health Physics Society

The Health Physics Society is a nonprofit organization composed of professionals in various fields of science who aim to promote radiation safety. It provides information to a number of organizations that deal with radioactive materials, from academia to medicine to government to the nuclear industry. The society’s Radiation Answers website provides detailed information on where radiation comes from and how it is used and debunks common myths.

Radiation Safety

Nuclear power plants emit negligible amounts of radiation during routine operation. To promote worker safety, several federal agencies—the NRC, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation—establish radiation protection regulations at U.S. nuclear plants based on internationally recognized scientific studies.

The NRC sets limits in the amount of radiation that workers can be exposed to annually. Nuclear plants can choose to set their worker dose limits lower than federal regulations. Through daily monitoring of plant workers, U.S. nuclear plant workers receive less than one-fifth of the annual dose of cosmic radiation that airline crews might incur if regularly flying from New York to Tokyo.

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