was called the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1947 to 1974
Here’s a reduced summary of what was provided as background at a recent (Apr. 4/2011) hearing about the NRC at a subcommittee hearing by the House Energy and Power Committee
…The NRC is an independent agency, established by Congress in the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to oversee the commercial nuclear industry. NRC licenses and regulates the nation’s civilian use of nuclear facilities and materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety. The NRC is headed by five Commissioners, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairman. The Commission is responsible for policy formation, rulemaking, adjudications, and adjudicatory orders. As established in Commission procedures, the authorities of the Commission are exercised in a collegial manner; each Commission member has equal authority in all Commission decisions and equal (prompt and full) access to all agency information pertaining to Commission responsibilities, according to the NRC. The Chairman is the official spokesman of the agency and is the principal executive officer for the Commission, responsible for administrative functions of the agency. The Chairman is governed by the general policies of the Commission and by such regulatory decisions, findings, and determinations as the Commission may by law be authorized to make… The disposition of spent fuel is a critical element of nuclear power development; absence of a permanent repository to date has resulted in the need for continued storage of the waste onsite at nuclear facilities, which creates uncertainty regarding licensing of new nuclear power reactors, as well as on-going financial liabilities and legal challenges relating to existing facilities…
… here is what their website says
In accordance with its mission, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) protects the health and safety of the public and the environment by regulating the design, siting, construction, and operation of new commercial nuclear power facilities.
What We Regulate
For new reactor facilities, the NRC reviews applications submitted by prospective licensees, and (when appropriate) issues standard design certifications, early site permits, limited work authorizations, construction permits, operating licenses, and combined licenses. At present, the NRC anticipates that these activities may involve new light-water reactor (LWR) facilities in a variety of projected locationsthroughout the United States.
For additional detail regarding the NRC’s regulation and licensing of new LWR facilities, including the status of licensing applications, see the following related pages: