Atomic Energy Act (including the Price-Anderson Act)
Official Citation
42 U.S.C. §§2011-2021, 2022-2286i, 2296a to 2296g-4
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Statute Outline

Establishment of commission

The statute originally established the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). [42 U.S.C. §2031 (repealed)] The AEC is now replaced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Pub. L. No. 93-438, 88 Stat. 1233 (1974); see also Reorg. Plan No. 1 of 1980, 45 Fed. Reg. 40561, 94 Stat. 3858. [42 U.S.C. §§5814, 5841]

Cooperation with states

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is authorized to enter into agreements with any state providing that the state will have authority to regulate byproduct materials (defined as any radioactive material, except special nuclear material, yielded or made radioactive in the process of producing or utilizing special nuclear material, and uranium or thorium mill tailings), source materials (including uranium and thorium), and special nuclear materials (including certain enriched plutonium and uranium) in quantities not sufficient to form a critical mass. The statute establishes the conditions, requirements, and limitations of such agreements. [42 U.S.C. §§2021, 2014(e), 2014(z), 2014(aa)]

No such agreement will affect certain of the Commission’s responsibilities, including control of the construction and operation of production and utilization facilities, the import or export of nuclear materials, the disposal at sea of nuclear waste materials, the disposal of hazardous nuclear material, and the transfer of nuclear materials. [42 U.S.C. §2021(c)]

The Commission is directed to cooperate with states in the formulation of standards for protection against radiation to assure that state and Commission radiation standards are coordinated and compatible. [42 U.S.C. §2021(g)]

The Commission, in carrying out its licensing and regulatory responsibilities, is authorized to enter into agreements with states to perform inspections or other functions on a cooperative basis. [42 U.S.C. §2021(i)]

The statute establishes certain minimum requirements of state programs to regulate byproduct materials. [42 U.S.C. §2021(o)]

The Commission may terminate or temporarily suspend a state agreement in an emergency situation to protect the public health and safety or when the state fails to act on causes of danger. [42 U.S.C. §2021(j)]

Health and environmental standards for uranium mill tailings

The Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shall promulgate standards (including standards applicable to certain licenses under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978) for the protection of the public health and safety and the environment from hazards of residual radioactive materials at inactive uranium mill tailings sites and depository sites for such materials. [42 U.S.C. §2022(a)]

Such standards shall be as consistent as possible with requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). [42 U.S.C. §2022(a)]

The Administrator shall promulgate standards for the protection of the public health and safety and the environment from the hazards associated with the possession, transfer, and disposal of byproduct material at disposal sites or sites at which ores are processed primarily for their source material contents. [42 U.S.C. §2022(b)(1)]

Such standards shall be consistent with standards required under RCRA Subtitle C. [42 U.S.C. §2022(b)(2)]

Regulation of nuclear materials

The Commission regulates special nuclear material, source material, and byproduct material through the issuance of licenses for production, possession, and transfer. [42 U.S.C. §§2073, 2092, 2093, 2111] The Commission is also authorized to produce and distribute such materials under certain circumstances. [42 U.S.C. §§2061, 2064, 2073, 2074, 2092-2094, 2111, 2112]

Licenses issued for the production of byproduct material shall contain provisions assuring that ownership of the material shall, before termination of the licenses, be transferred to the United States, or to the state government under certain circumstances. [42 U.S.C. §2113(a)(2)]

The Commission shall require by rule, regulation, or order that title to land used for the disposal of byproduct material shall be transferred to the United States or, at the option of the state, to the state government (unless the Commission determines that such transfer is not necessary to protect public health, safety, welfare, or the environment. [42 U.S.C. §2113(b)(1)]

The Commission shall ensure that the management of any byproduct material is carried out in a manner to protect the public health and safety and the environment, taking into account the risk from such material and with due consideration of the economic costs. [42 U.S.C. §2114(a)(1)] The Commission’s requirements shall be at least comparable to requirements for the possession, transfer, and disposal of similar hazardous waste under RCRA. [42 U.S.C. §2114(a)(3)]

Atomic energy licenses

It is unlawful, subject to limited exceptions, for any person to transfer, manufacture, acquire, possess, or use any production or utilization facility without a license issued by the Commission. [42 U.S.C. §§2131, 2140]

The statute contains various provisions governing the issuance of atomic energy licenses. [42 U.S.C. §§2132-2139a]

Indemnification and limitation of liability (Price-Anderson Act)

Certain licenses (including construction licenses for production or utilization facilities) shall, and other licenses (for production, possession, or transfer of certain nuclear materials) may, require the licensee to maintain a specified level of financial protection to cover public liability claims. [42 U.S.C. §2210(a)]

Certain large electrical generating facilities shall be required to maintain, in addition to their primary financial protection, private liability insurance available under an industry retrospective rating plan providing for deferred premiums. [42 U.S.C. §2210(b)(1)]

The Commission shall agree to indemnify and hold harmless certain licensees from public liability in connection with nuclear incidents that exceeds the level of financial protection required of the licensee. [42 U.S.C. §2210(c)]

The Secretary of Energy shall, until August 1, 2002, enter into indemnification agreements with certain U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) contractors. [42 U.S.C. §2210(d)(1)(A)]

The statute establishes a maximum aggregate public liability for a single nuclear incident of persons indemnified. [42 U.S.C. §2210(e)]

Indemnity agreements with licensees and contractors may include provisions establishing that in the event of an extraordinary nuclear occurrence, the licensee or contractor waives certain traditional defenses. [42 U.S.C. §2210(n)(1)]

In the event of a nuclear incident involving damages in excess of the amount of aggregate public liability, Congress will review the incident and take whatever action is deemed necessary (including appropriation of funds) to provide full compensation to the public. [42 U.S.C. §2210(i)]

When public liability from a nuclear incident appears to exceed the maximum aggregate liability, the appropriate U.S. district court shall approve a plan for the distribution of the funds available. [42 U.S.C. §2210(o)]

Nuclear reactors of U.S. warships

It is the policy of the United States that it will pay claims for damages proven to have resulted from a nuclear incident involving a nuclear reactor of a U.S. warship unless the damage was caused by an armed force in combat or as the result of a civil insurrection. [42 U.S.C. §2211]

Atomic weapons testing programs

The statute establishes the remedies available for damage due to exposure to radiation because of acts or omissions by a contractor in carrying out an atomic weapons testing program under a contract with the United States. [42 U.S.C. §2212(b)]


The statute provides for civil and criminal penalties for violations. [42 U.S.C. §§2272-2277, 2278a, 2278b, 2282-2284]

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

The statute establishes the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to oversee safety issues at DOE defense nuclear facilities. [42 U.S.C. §§2286, 2286a]

Uranium enrichment

The statute establishes the U.S. Enrichment Corporation to, acting as a business enterprise, lease DOE uranium enrichment facilities, acquire uranium for enrichment, sell enriched uranium, and conduct research and development on alternative technologies for uranium enrichment. [42 U.S.C. §§2297a, 2297b] After July 1, 1995, and with the President’s approval of a strategic plan for privatization, the Corporation shall transfer ownership to private investors. [42 U.S.C. §§2297b-14(e), 2297d, 2297d-1]

Licensees shall be responsible for decontamination, decommissioning, reclamation, and other remedial action costs at active uranium or thorium processing sites, except that DOE shall provide reimbursement in some instances. [42 U.S.C. §2296a]

The statute establishes the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund to fund the decontamination and decommissioning of DOE’s gaseous diffusion enrichment facilities. The fund shall consist of annual deposits of $480 million in special assessments from domestic utilties and congressional appropriations. [42 U.S.C. §§2297g, 2297g-1, 2297g-2]

Full Statute

The statute is available from the U.S. Government Publishing Office: