Nuclear Regulatory Research

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Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research

Director: Raymond Furstenau
Deputy Director: Stephanie Coffin

Provides leadership; plans, recommends, manages and implements programs of nuclear regulatory research; and interfaces with all NRC offices and the Commission on research issues. Independently proposes improvements to the agency's regulatory research programs and processes to enhance safety, efficiency, and/or effectiveness based on research results, and coordinates research activities with the program offices, as appropriate. Also coordinates the development of consensus and voluntary standards for agency use, and appoints RES staff to committees. Based on research results and experience gained, recommends regulatory actions to resolve ongoing and potential safety issues for nuclear power plants and other facilities regulated by the NRC, including those issues designated as generic issues (GIs). Assesses the effectiveness of selected NRC programs, including the agency's regulations and regulatory guidance, with regard to risk reduction potential, burden reduction potential and the appropriate degree to which safety margins exist in the design and operation of licensed facilities. Develops and maintains computer codes and databases used in evaluating the response of systems, structures and components of nuclear reactors and nuclear materials facilities under normal and hypothetical accident conditions, of both current and future design. Conducts research to reduce uncertainties in areas of potentially high safety or security risk or significance. Develops the technical basis for risk-informed, performance-based regulations in all areas regulated by the NRC. Leads the agency's initiative for cooperative research with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other Federal agencies, the domestic nuclear industry, U.S. universities, and international partners. Coordinates research activities outside the agency, and appoints RES staff to domestic and international committees and conferences. Maintains technical capability to develop information for resolution of nuclear safety and security issues, and provides technical support and consultation to the program offices in the related specialized disciplines. Provides independent analysis of operational data and assessment of operational experience through the review, analysis, and evaluation of the safety performance of facilities licensed by the NRC. Collects and analyzes operational data; assesses performance trends derived from these data; evaluates operating experience to provide insights and improve understanding of the risk-significance of events, "near-missses," and trends; and produces and disseminates periodic performance indicator and accident sequence precursor (ASP) report. Provides program direction, coordination, and implementation for homeland security research. Also provides administrative and technical support for the Committee to Review Generic Requirements (CRGR). Coordinates domestic and international cooperative nuclear safety research activities, including the Code Applications and Maintenance Program (CAMP), the Cooperative Severe Accident Research Program (CSARP), and other programs with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Program Management, Policy Development and Analysis Staff

Director: Michael Brezovec

Provides leadership and manages short- and long-term strategic and programmatic planning, resource forecasting and allocation, and budgeting. Coordinates the development and oversight of the RES operating plan. Manages and coordinates the execution of financial resources for RES. Provides overall administrative and financial management and planning for RES technical assistance projects with private contractors, Federal agencies, and DOE National Laboratories. Provides overall program planning, management, and guidance for the development of objectives and requirements for contracted technical assistance programs. Provides independent review of non-technical RES policy papers and issues to ensure completeness, promptness, accuracy, and adherence to agency and office policy. Coordinates international cooperative nuclear safety research activities, including the Code Applications and Maintenance (CAMP), the Cooperative Severe Accident Research (CSARP) computer code program, and the Radiation Protection Code Analysis & Maintenance Program (RAMP). Manages policy and financial aspects for over 100 international agreements with 35 countries. Guides RES staff on foreign travel, and administers the RES foreign assignee program. Assists staff and managers on foreign policy matters and international agreements, and provides support for bilateral and multilateral meetings at the Regulatory Information Conference and other venues. Manages, coordinates, and supports the acquisition of appropriate information technology and information management (IT/IM) infrastructure. Provides administrative and management support in the areas of human resource management, facilities management, training, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordination, and management of principal correspondence for RES.

Directs and coordinates office communication plans and strategies, provides technical editing support, and leads and coordinates special projects (e.g., knowledge management). Also manages and coordinates responses to inquiries from the Commission, Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress, and responds to inquiries related to the RES budget and technical applicability of the agency's research program, including resource tradeoffs within the technical and programmatic context. Assists in coordinating the RES operating plan with those of the NRC's other major offices. Supports and coordinates with other NRC offices and DOE laboratories. Also supports and coordinates the annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC), and assists in coordinating intra- and inter-agency special projects and international agreements. Responsible for performing a wide variety of planning, guidance, and management work associated with the NRC Integrated University Program (IUP) to enhance the Nation's capability for producing highly trained nuclear scientists and engineers to meet the public and private sector's energy, environmental, national security, and health care needs.

Financial and Performance Management Team

Oversees and manages short- and long-term strategic and programmatic planning, resource forecasting and allocation, and budget execution. Coordinates the development and implementation of the RES Operating Plan, Performance Report and Internal Controls. Manages and coordinates the execution of financial resources for RES, including tracking and maintaining user need requests, FTE and spending analyses, and performance and financial reporting. Monitors responses to budget-related inquiries from the Commission, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress. Lead for implementing the internal control program within the office and ensures the proper implementation and reporting of fee billable contract costs. Also ensures the timely compilation and submittal of quarterly reports of office reimbursable expenditures. Oversees IT/IM expenditures.

Human Capital and Information Team

Provides administrative and management support in the areas of human resource management, human capital performance measures, equal employment opportunity (EEO), labor-management partnership, occupant emergency planning, training, and management of principal correspondence for RES. Manages RES FTE/Salaries and Benefits expenditure and strategy, staffing plan development and execution, hiring programs and strategy, student programs, and RES on-boarding. Manages performance management programs. Provides support the RES Occupant Emergency Plan, RES Office Instructions, periodic communication vehicles, and announcements. Serves as contact for the annual FAIR Act, Agency-wide recognition, leadership development, awards programs, and management of RES action items and controlled correspondence.


Division of Engineering

Director: Louise Lund
Deputy Director: Jeremy Bowen

Plans, develops, and directs comprehensive safety research programs and standards development to support the NRC strategic goals in the design, construction, and operation of current and advanced nuclear power plants and other facilities regulated by the NRC. Coordinates research activities with the program offices, as appropriate, on areas that include material characteristics, aging, natural hazards, homeland security, and engineering aspects of these facilities. Resolves technical, security, and safety issues, including those designated as generic issues, related to engineering and material issues. Develops appropriate tools and analytical methodologies for evaluation of the reactor engineering systems. Within scope of responsibility, assesses the NRC's regulations and regulatory guidance with regard to risk significance, burden reduction potential, and the engineering design margins associated with facility systems, structures and components. Manages the prioritization of technical activities and through contract or agreement arranges for necessary technical support or collaboration with DOE, other Federal agencies, commercial sources, international parties, and universities consistent with the Division's budget. Consistent with NRC policy, and to the extent overall Agency need exists, maintains liaison and provides technical input in assigned areas to other Federal agencies, American National Standards Institute, other professional societies, international agencies, and other organizations. Independently recommends improvements in NRC programs/processes to achieve outcomes of enhanced safety, efficiency or effectiveness. Has lead agency responsibility for coordinating NRC codes and standards activities as these relate to federal law and interaction writing organizations, including activities relating to the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (Public Law [PL] 104-113) and OMB circular A119, "Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities." Supports the priority scheduling and revision or development of Regulatory Guides (RGs) and draft RGs (DGs) during review of agency infrastructure to support new reactor licensing activities. Maintains broad technical expertise in the relevant engineering technology areas and provides appropriate technical support to the program offices.

Materials Engineering Branch

Chief: Steve Ruffin

Plans, coordinates, and manages the development and deterministic analysis of data to characterize the causes and effects of corrosion and environmentally-assisted cracking on the structures and components of nuclear plant systems. Conducts materials degradation studies of irradiated-assisted stress corrosion cracking, stress-corrosion cracking, materials fatigue and general corrosion. Evaluates advanced manufacturing technologies for manufacturing systems, structures, and components (SSCs) in nuclear power plants. Assesses in-service inspection techniques to ensure steam generator tubes integrity. Evaluates the reliability of non-destructive examination methods for operating reactors and maintains the agency’s Best Practices ISI Web site. Develops and maintains interactions with domestic and international research organizations to support collaborative materials research programs. Maintains expertise in Metallurgy, Non-destructive Examination Methods, Physical Chemistry, and Materials Science to support NRC needs for methods, data, standards, and tools associated with corrosion and cracking of nuclear power plant structures and components.

Reactor Engineering Branch

Chief: Raj Iyengar

Plans and executes programs for analytic and experimental research to develop the technical bases, methods, and tools for advanced technology applications, influencing safety of operating and advanced reactors and other facilities regulated by the NRC. Supports readiness to review advanced non-light water reactor designs, related to high-temperature materials, design methodologies, component performance, molten salt fuel-cycle, material safeguards, physical security, and consensus standard improvements. Develops, maintains, and deploys advanced software tools for probabilistic simulation and assessment of systemic effects on component performance. Develops tools and analytical methodologies for evaluation of the structural performance and dynamics of mechanical systems using multi-physics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and data analytics. Supports the development, review, and endorsement of codes and standards, such as American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC), in coordination with other agency staff.  Serves as the technical lead for ASME BVPC case regulatory guides. Fosters and maintains collaborative research partnerships with Department of Energy (DOE) and Electric Power Research Institute, academic organizations, and international counterparts.

Regulatory Guide and Programs Management Branch

Chief: Merah Rahimi

Supports the NRC mission of licensing and regulation of materials to protect public health and safety, promoting the common defense and security, and protecting the environment, through project management, in coordination with the NRC offices and other internal and external stakeholders, of the following activities:

  • Development, processing, and issuance of new regulatory guidance, revision or withdrawal of existing guidance, and the periodic reviews of existing guidance.
  • Participation in and endorsement of voluntary consensus codes and standards for use in the agency regulatory guidance, including consideration of international standards in regulatory guidance.
  • Screening, assessment, and implementation of generic issues that impact the mission of the agency.
  • Review, assessment, recommendation, and implementation of the proposed research topics under Future Focused Research program.

In addition, the branch staff assist the other DE branches on the project management and coordination of cross-cutting technical projects.

Instrumentation, Controls, and Electrical Engineering Branch

Chief: Christopher Cook

Develops and implements a broad research program in the areas of both electrical engineering and instrumentation and controls that supports identification and resolution of safety and security issues in an effective and efficient manner. The topical areas for electrical engineering include offsite power sources, onsite electrical power distribution systems, emergency power supplies, electrical equipment qualification, and electrical cable and equipment aging. The topical areas for instrumentation and controls include the safety and security implications digital/software-based technology, modernizing regulatory infrastructure, enhanced hazard analysis methods, severe accident instrumentation, electromagnetic pulse/severe solar storms, advanced reactor instrumentation, wireless technology, and emerging technologies. To a set of confirmatory and anticipatory research activities in support of the known and future needs of the program offices, develops and maintains the necessary core capabilities (e.g., expertise, knowledge, and experience) in each of the functional areas. Actively involved in the revision and development of necessary regulatory infrastructure (i.e., regulations and guidance) and participates in consensus standards development activities. Coordinates research and development activities with the program offices and external domestic and international stakeholders (e.g., Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI), OECD/NEA, and the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories).

Structural, Geotechnical and Seismic Engineering Branch

Chief: Dogan Seber

Develops and applies methods, data, standards, and modeling tools to assess the structural performance of SSCs; develops the technical bases and computational methods to resolve structural engineering issues associated with security assessments; collects and analyzes data related to seismic hazard and seismic performance of structures; develops and applies seismic design analysis methods and guidance for geotechnical and structural design elements; maintains expertise in Structural, Geotechnical, and Seismic Engineering, including Seismology and Geophysics.


Division of Systems Analysis

Director: Kimberly Webber
Deputy Director: Theresa Lalain

Plans, develops and manages research programs to develop and maintain broad technical expertise, experimental data, numerical simulation analyses tools, and the knowledge bases needed to provide the NRC with the ability to make reliable and technically sound regulatory decisions. Coordinates research activities with the program offices, as appropriate. Works in partnership with universities, laboratories, and other national and international research centers involved in complementary areas. Maintains an infra-structure of criticality safety, thermal-hydraulic and severe accident phenomenology, accident source terms, accident sequence analysis and develops analytical capabilities for realistic analyses to be used in support of risk-informed regulatory decisions for a wide spectrum of conditions, including normal operation, accident, and severe accident conditions for current, new and advanced reactor designs. The developed computer codes and data are used to provide the technical infrastructure for reviewing and performing confirmatory analysis to support licensing decisions. Conducts research to quantify margins, reduce unnecessary burden, and reduce uncertainties for areas of potentially high risk or safety significance. Develops the methods, data, standards, and modeling tools to assess dose and health effects. Develops the methods, data, standards, and modeling tools to assess the magnitude and effect of released radioactive material to the environment outside nuclear facilities. Maintains broad technical expertise and provides consultation to NRC organizations in these specialized areas.

Code and Reactor Analysis Branch

Chief: Chris Hoxie

Plans, develops and manages research programs to develop , maintain, and apply computer codes, models and experimental databases for evaluating 1) thermal-hydraulic behavior of nuclear reactor and plant systems, 2) reactor core physics behavior of nuclear reactors, 3) fuel behavior under normal, abnormal and accident conditions for current and advanced reactor designs, 4) performance of the coolant systems of nuclear plants including thermal-hydraulic and reactor core transient behavior and interaction with the balance of plant under normal, abnormal, and accident conditions, and 5) computational fluid dynamics analytical analyses for current and advanced reactors. Conducts reactor system thermal-hydraulic and reactor core physics research to quantify margins, reduce unnecessary burden, and reduce uncertainties for areas of potentially high risk or safety significance under normal, abnormal, and accident conditions for current and advanced reactors. Works in partnership with universities, laboratories, and national and international research centers involved in complementary areas. Maintains, analyzes, and applies experimental data, fuel, reactor physics, coupled neutronic and thermal-hydraulic analytical tools and knowledge bases, and provides consultation to NRC organizations in these specialized areas to make reliable and technically sound regulatory decisions.

Radiation Protection Branch

Chief: John Tomon

Plans, develops, performs, and manages research programs supporting risk-informed regulatory decision-making in radiation protection at nuclear power plants, materials facilities and users, and fuel cycle facilities. Serves as an agency-wide resource by providing technical support in all aspects of radiation protection to program offices as well as to NRC's domestic and international regulatory and scientific counterparts. Develops and maintains computer codes for assessment of radiation doses to workers and members of the public; analyzes and reports worker exposure to Congress and other stakeholders; and executes research in radiation dosimetry and health studies. Strongly promotes and participates in knowledge management activities within the agency in radiation protection.

Fuel and Source Term Code Development Branch

Chief: Hossein Esmaili

Plans, develops, and manages analytical and experimental research projects to develop, validate and maintain state-of-the-art computer codes, models, experimental data bases, and technical expertise needed. Performs confirmatory analysis of neutronics, fuel, severe accident progression and source term analysis for operating reactors, new and advanced reactors, spent fuel pool and spent fuel cask. Provides consultation and formulates technical bases for NRC organizations to make timely risk-informed regulatory decision. Collaborates with universities, domestic and international regulatory and research institutions to advance the scientific and technical knowledge base of nuclear safety.

Accident Analysis Branch

Chief: Luis Betancourt

Plans, develops, and manages analytical and experimental research projects on the progression, response, and offsite consequences of postulated severe accidents; and performs safety analyses of nuclear power plant systems. This work includes safety and security analyses; analyses of plant behavior and interaction with the balance of plant under abnormal and accident conditions; and accident analyses beyond the reactor core, such as postulated accidents from spent fuel storage and transportation. State-of-the-art analytical techniques are used to develop realistic best estimates, and associated uncertainties, of the potential effects (consequences) to the public of low-likelihood nuclear power plant and spent fuel storage and transportation accidents that could release radioactive material into the environment. Develops improved computer code models and conducts analyses to support regulatory analyses and emergency protective action guidelines. Conducts integrated uncertainty analyses of severe accident progression and offsite consequences. Models accident progression in order to estimate the magnitude and timing of radioactive release into the environment to estimate site-specific consequences (e.g. health effects) . The experimental research projects support NRC's knowledge and understanding of severe accidents, and they support NRC's models with experimental data. Provides consultation to NRC offices regarding safety or licensing decisions, development of guidance, or other regulatory needs, and partners with USDOE, universities, laboratories, and other national and international research centers.


Division of Risk Analysis

Director: Mark Thaggard
Deputy Director: Christian Araguas

Develops, recommends, plans, and manages research programs relating to probabilistic risk assessments (PRA), human factors, and human reliability analysis. Assesses U.S. operational safety data and reliability information to determine risk-significant insights and trends. Coordinates research activities with the program offices, as appropriate. Develops and uses PRA-based methodologies, models, and analysis techniques, as well as other risk assessment techniques, to determine overall risk. Responsible for development of guidance and regulatory tools for implementation of the Safety Goal Policy and PRA Policy Statements. Performs risk and reliability analyses and evaluations based on operating experience to assess industry and plant performance and identify plant outliers. Develops and manages data systems for the storage and retrieval of safety experience. Remains cognizant of operational and reliability data systems in the industry and the NRC, and serves as focal point for coordination of the NRC safety data collection programs with external stakeholders. Provides an NRC focal point for the Equipment Performance and Information Exchange (EPIX) system and oversees the use of EPIX data by NRC users. Develops risk-informed performance indicators and thresholds to provide support to the agency's Reactor Oversight Program (ROP) and Industry Trends Program. Implements the Accident Sequence Precursor Program for operating nuclear power plants, including the production of periodic performance indicator and accident sequence precursor reports. Performs reliability studies for risk significant systems and equipment on operating nuclear power plants. Maintains staff capability by developing standardized plant risk models (SPAR) and a PRA Code to perform state-of-the-art operating experience risk analyses for both independent assessments and to assist other agency organizations in the assessment of licensee risk-related performance and safety issue risk implications. Performs a comprehensive review of operating experience and conducts in-depth analyses and evaluations of significant operating events and safety issues to determine root causes of these events. Manages GIs related to systems performance. Manages and coordinates fire safety research, including testing and developing risk analysis models. Maintains broad technical expertise and provides consultation to NRC organizations in PRA-related areas.

Probabilistic Risk Assessment Branch

Chief: John Nakoski

Plans, develops, integrates and manages research and development programs relating to probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) models and methods. Supports agency efforts to use risk information in all aspects of regulatory decision making, and undertakes specific initiatives as the lead organization. Coordinates research and development activities and PRA Standards with the other agency program offices and external partners (e.g., Universities, international organizations). Develops and uses PRA-based methodologies, models, and analysis techniques, such as the standardized plant risk models (SPAR), the SAPHIRE code and other PRA codes. Develops guidance and other regulatory tools for implementation of the Safety Goal and PRA Policy Statements. Provides safety perspectives on plant design and operation using probabilistic techniques to identify dominant risk contributors and potential risk management strategies. Maintains broad technical expertise and provides consultation to NRC organizations in PRA-related areas. Participates in international activities aimed at sharing PRA-related information. Recommends improvements in NRC programs/processes to achieve outcomes of enhanced safety, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Fire and External Hazards Branch

Chief: Mark Salley

Plans, develops, and manages the agency's external hazard analysis program. Plans, develops, and manages the agency's fire safety research programs, including fire modeling, fire PRA risk analysis methods and fire testing programs. Develops the methods, data, standards, and modeling tools to assess the magnitude and effect of released radioactive material to the environment outside nuclear facilities. Develops and evaluates pathway models to assess contamination. Provides an assessment of source terms from releases. Develops and applies surface and subsurface process models for assessing transport of released radioactive material. Develops and applies integrated systems models for evaluating complex sites, including computational techniques and systems and probabilistic analyses. Evaluates the degradation and long-term performance of engineered barriers to radionuclide migration. Supports other NRC offices such as NRR and NMSS by developing and validating methodologies, models, tools, and supporting data for fire and radioactive releases. Provides workshops and seminars on using these state-of-the-art methods and tools. Using results of associated research, recommends improvements in NRC programs and/or processes to achieve outcomes of enhanced safety, efficiency or effectiveness, and risk informed regulations. Represents the agency in fire safety research initiatives with outside organizations (e.g. EPRI}, on standards development committees, and international fire research risk/safety forums. Maintains expertise in Hydrology (both ground water and surface water), Geochemistry, Radiochemistry, Geotechnical Engineering, Materials Science, and Radiobiology to support NRC assessments of environmental effects of released radioactive materials.

Performance and Reliability Branch

Chief: Mehdi Reisi

Plans, develops and manages research programs to systematically assess reliability information to determine risk-informed insights for nuclear power reactors and other regulatory applications. Assists other agency program offices in the safety assessment of licensee performance and safety issue risk implications. Develops risk-informed performance indicators and thresholds to support the agency's Reactor Oversight Program (ROP). Implements the Accident Sequence Precursor (ASP) Program for operating nuclear power plants, including the production of ASP reports and input to the NRC Performance and Accountability Report. Conducts in-depth analyses and evaluations of significant operating events and safety issues to determine root causes of these events, risk insights and lessons-learned. Coordinates related research activities with the program offices, such as the Risk Assessment Standardization Project (RASP), as appropriate. Recommends improvements in NRC programs and/or processes to achieve outcomes of enhanced safety, efficiency or effectiveness. Coordinates Office efforts to apply risk information in revising and updating NRC regulations, regulatory guides, and the technical bases for NRC regulatory decisions (e.g., licensing reviews, inspection findings and enforcement).

Operating experience data is obtained from nuclear power plants via the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations and from Licensee Event Reports, Monthly Operating Reports, the Mitigating System Performance Index program and an insurance organization. The data is collected, reviewed for quality, categorized and evaluated. The evaluations produce insights for reactor inspectors, input parameters for probabilistic risk assessments and input for the Industry Trends and Accident Sequence Precursor Programs.

Human Factors and Reliability Branch

Chief: Sean Peters

Plans, develops, and manages research programs relating to human factors, human reliability analysis, and human performance. Coordinates research and development activities with the Program Offices and external partners (e.g., Universities, international organizations). Develops and uses human factors and human reliability analysis methodologies, models, and techniques to evaluate human performance. Provides safety perspectives on the impact of human performance on nuclear power plant operations and other NRC-licensed facilities and activities. Identifies potential human performance safety issues and assesses their significance. Maintains broad technical expertise and provides consultation to NRC organizations in human performance related areas. Identifies the need for and supports the development of human performance related training for NRC staff. Collects, reviews, and evaluates data and information relating to human performance, and develops and validates regulatory tools and guidance for use in evaluating human factors, performing human reliability analyses, and assessing human performance. Participates in international activities aimed at sharing human factors and human reliability-related information. Recommends improvements in NRC programs/processes to achieve outcomes of enhanced safety, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, June 21, 2021