Atomic Energy Act

Congress established the United States Atomic Energy Commission to foster and control peacetime development of atomic energy.  Congress passed the first Atomic Energy Act in the year 1946.  The Act of 1946 provided some power to civilians, namely the Atomic Energy Commision,  in the control and management of nuclear technology, where this had previously been a power reserved for the military.  Moreover, the act banned the transfer of nuclear technology to other countries.  Later, Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act, 1954, which ended the monopoly on atomic energy exercised by the Atomic Energy Commission.  The new act also permitted private industries to build nuclear reactors for the generation of electricity.  Some significant provisions of the new act were:

  • Licensing of the civilian uses of atomic energy.
  • Establishing and enforcing health and safety standards, which relates to nuclear activities by the United States Atomic Energy Commission (USAEC)

Later, the Energy Reorganization Act, 1974 replaced the Atomic Energy Act, 1954.  The new act abolished USAEC.  The new act also established two new agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA).  Under the new act, ERDA was assigned with the task of development and production of nuclear weapons, promotion of nuclear power, and other energy related work.  Likewise, the NRC played the role of a regulator under the new act.  However, the responsibilities of ERDA were transferred to United States Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) in 1977.  The U.S. Congress later amended the Energy Reorganization Act, 1974 in 2005 to provide protection to the whistleblowers and employees, who raise nuclear safety concerns.  That is, the whistleblowers who suffered retaliation for their protected activities can file a complaint with Occupation Safety and Health Administration. This must be made within 180 days of the first notice of the adverse action.  At a later stage, the whistleblowers and employees can approach the administrative law judge of the United States Department of Labor with their claim or file a law suit and seek trial by judge or jury.

Inside Atomic Energy Act