Fuel Cycle Facilities

What We Regulate

Fuel cycle facilities make nuclear fuel for commercial nuclear reactors or are manufacturing specialty nuclear materials for the U.S. Navy's nuclear fleet. Many of the fuel cycle facilities are different from each other—in purpose and technology—as they comprise the different Stages of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.

A list of fuel cycle facilities—both operational facilities and new facilities that are being licensed or under construction—provides information on the facility type and each of their locations.

The fuel cycle facilities are licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to process and handle special nuclear material, source material, or both. These forms of nuclear material are highly regulated to ensure the safe use and enhanced security. The Division of Fuel Management is responsible for the effective regulation of operational fuel facilities and the licensing of new facilities.

The fuel cycle facilities that are currently operational fall into three different categories:

New fuel cycle facilities are in the following status; current fuel cycle facility licensing activities. These fuel cycle facilities (currently in the licensing or construction phase) fall into the four categories provided below. The NRC inspects the site construction at new fuel cycle facilities and only approves the facility's capability to possess nuclear material after ensuring that the facility's safety controls are robust and able to safety handle these materials.

Mining and milling of uranium, also known as Uranium Recovery, are the first two stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and are regulated by the Division of Decommissioning, Uranium Recovery, and Waste Programs.

Product quality issues at fuel cycle facilities—which do not represent a hazard to workers or the public—but could nonetheless have the potential to compromise reactor performance are inspected and monitored by the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

See How We Regulate for more information. For additional information about how we regulate fuel cycle facilities, see the following related pages:

How We Regulate

The NRC regulates the Nation's fuel cycle facilities to protect public health and safety, protect the environment, and to ensure the security of nuclear material.

The NRC regulates fuel cycle facilities through a combination of measures.

  • Fuel cycle facilities must comply with the regulatory requirements established by the NRC. The regulations contain the basic safety standards that the fuel cycle facilities need to meet.
  • Each facility also has an NRC license which contains site-specific requirements that the facility is required to comply with. Each license is unique and is specific to the nuclear material and hazards present at the fuel cycle facility. The act of issuing a license is called licensing and involves a lot of communication between the NRC and the applicant.
  • NRC safety oversight includes three important components; NRC inspection, the routine assessment of each licensee's performance, and enforcement in the case that the regulatory requirements were not met.

The NRC supports the effective regulation of fuel cycle facilities by offering guidance documents and generic communication when necessary. These methods of communication support the regulatory process and are not regulations within themselves that require compliance. The NRC makes a continuing effort—in conjunction with interested stakeholders—to enhance and develop regulations and guidance in an efficient and effective way. Interested stakeholders can track the NRC progress on these topics at periodic Fuel Facility Stakeholders Meetings.