United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (NUREG/BR-0249, Revision 2)

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Publication Information

Date Published: August 2004

U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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Introduction

Through the Atomic Energy Act, Congress made it possible for the public to get a full and fair hearing on civilian nuclear matters. Individuals who are directly affected by any licensing action involving a facility producing or utilizing nuclear materials can participate in a hearing before independent judges of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP or Panel).

Hearings often involve difficult, interdisciplinary questions at the cutting edge of science and technology. In addition, NRC hearings air local concerns about the consequences of severe accidents and continue the national debate over the role nuclear power should play in meeting the nation’s energy needs.

Contested hearings at the NRC are conducted either by three judges or by a single administrative law judge drawn from the Panel. The three-judge panels normally consist of one lawyer judge and two non-lawyer technical judges who possess expertise in the scientific subject matter at issue in the case. Hearings before these judges are among the most complex, lengthy, and controversial administrative proceedings conducted by the Federal government.

The Panel considers issues arising out of the operation of the nation’s more than 100 nuclear power plants and out of programs related to approximately 5,000 nuclear materials licenses. In recent years, hearings have shifted away from the large nuclear power plant operating licenses and construction permits and instead focus on license extensions, site decontamination, enforcement actions, reactor and materials license amendments, and spent fuel storage.

Future proceedings are also likely to involve plant life extensions, early site permits for locations for future power reactors, licensing of a high-level radioactive waste repository, and decommissioning activities. The proceeding to license a high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, in particular, will involve novel and complex scientific issues.

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