National Materials Program: Background


On this page:

To top of page

U.S. Material Licenses

There are approximately 17,698 licenses issued for medical, academic, industrial, and general uses of radioactive materials in the United States. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Agreement State radiation safety regulatory programs (which currently include 39 Agreement States) are responsible for ensuring protection of public health and safety and the environment. An Agreement State is any state with which the Atomic Energy Commission or the NRC has entered into an Agreement under subsection 274b of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA) (as amended).

To top of page

National Materials Program: Definition, Mission, Goal, and Vision


The National Materials Program (NMP) is a term that has been used for many years, to define the broad collective framework within which both the NRC and the Agreement States function in carrying out their respective regulatory programs for radioactive material.


The mission of the NMP is to create a genuine partnership between the NRC and Agreement States that will ensure protection of public health, safety, security, and the environment from the hazards associated with radioactive material.


The goal of the NMP is the protection of public health, safety, security, and the environment associated with the hazards of radioactive material while effectively using regulatory resources.


Although the term NMP has only been in common usage since the late 1990s, it was not until 2017 that the term NMP was first incorporated into an NRC policy document. The Agreement State Program Policy Statement states

​The vision of the National Materials Program (NMP) is to provide a coherent national system for the regulation of agreement material with the goal of protecting public health, safety, security and the environment through compatible regulatory programs. Through the NMP, the NRC and Agreement States function as regulatory partners.

To top of page

Historical Aspects of the Program

Although the term NMP has only been around for about the last 25 years, the Agreement State program has been in existence since 1959 with the adoption of Section 274 of the AEA. The Agreement State program is unique in that it involves a discontinuance of NRC regulatory authority over certain radioactive materials and assumption of that authority by the State government.

Kentucky became the first Agreement State in 1962. By the end of 1970, there were 22 Agreement States regulating approximately 50% of radioactive material licenses. To date, there are 39 Agreement States regulating approximately 88% of radioactive material licenses. The NRC works with the Organization of Agreement States (OAS) to coordinate NMP implementation efforts. The OAS is a nonprofit, voluntary, scientific and professional society incorporated in the District of Columbia. The membership of OAS consists of state radiation control directors and staff from the 39 Agreement States who are responsible for implementation of their respective Agreement State programs. The purpose of the OAS is to provide a mechanism for these Agreement States to work with each other and with the NRC on regulatory issues associated with their respective agreements.

The OAS Board is integral in facilitating Agreement State participation in NMP activities, including appointing the Agreement State NMP Champion, to work alongside with the NRC NMP Champion, and establishing annual NMP goals and priorities, and related quality measures.

Under Section 274 of the AEA, NRC has programmatic responsibility to periodically review the actions of the Agreement States to comply with the requirements of the AEA to continue to maintain adequate and compatible programs. While this authority is reserved to the NRC, the current review process under the Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program (IMPEP) is conducted with State staff participation under the NMP. The IMPEP process employs a team of NRC and Agreement State staff to assess both Agreement State, and NRC Regional and certain NRC Headquarters radioactive materials programs.

To top of page

Evolution of the Program

The NMP also reflects the evolving relationship between NRC and the Agreement States. This relationship has been evolving as more States become Agreement States. For example, in the past, NRC drafted rule or guidance documents with little or no Agreement State involvement before they were shared with Agreement States for review and comment. Today, Agreement States have been actively involved in drafting rule making and guidance documents with NRC staff before they are made available for review and comment. Due to the continuing increase of Agreement State expertise and experience in certain areas, it is envisioned that Agreement States will continue to assume greater input in shaping regulations and guidance documents to be used by both NRC and Agreement States. Also, more recent NRC initiatives routinely involve the States early in the process (e.g., Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force, Integrated Source Management Portfolio, and development of pre-licensing guidance for use by NRC and States). The National Materials Program will continue to evolve as more States become Agreement States.

To top of page

The Current Program

In early 2000, the National Materials Program Working Group (NMPWG) was established to address the impacts of the increasing number of Agreement States and provide options for an NMP. In June 2001, the NMPWG final report was transmitted to the NRC Commission in SECY-01-0112. Implementation of the recommendations from the NMPWG resulted in changes in legislation (Energy Policy Act of 2005) and agency processes, or expansion of existing programs. Additional NMP activities were also implemented based on the lessons learned from the NMPWG experience. This included the establishment in 2009 of the joint setting of priorities and improved integration of the work from various materials related working groups.

In April 2018, the NRC's Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed the "Audit of NRC's Oversight of the National Materials Program" OIG-18-A-11. The objective of the OIG audit was to determine if the NMP is an effective and efficient framework for carrying out NRC and Agreement State radiation safety regulatory programs. The NRC agreed and took action to respond to the two recommendations made to improve the effectiveness of NRC's oversight of the NMP through improving documentation and communication of the Program framework.

  1. Formalize the National Materials Program framework in a document to include a definition, vision, mission, goals and objectives, membership, members' roles and responsibilities, and activities.
  2. ​Designate an NRC individual with expert knowledge to serve as the NMP champion to help with consistent communication. The NRC should also encourage the Agreement States to create a co-champion to serve alongside the NRC Champion.
    • Status: Currently, Duncan White (NRC) and Santiago Rodriguez (Agreement State) serve as the NMP Champions.