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Walking a Nuclear Tightrope

Chapter 4 NRC Oversight of Safety Programs

T he 104 currently licensed U.S. nuclear power reactors received their operating licenses after the NRC made two deter- minations: (1) that the reactor’s design and construction conformed with all applicable regulations, and (2) that reasonable assurance existed that the reactor would be operated and maintained in conformance with the license and all applicable regulations. For example, the NRC’s predecessor, the AEC, issued a full- power operating license for Vermont Yankee on

October 12, 1972, based on the provisions high- lighted in Figure 15.

This licensing process recognizes the fact that nuclear power reactors are complex industrial facilities subject to periodic equipment breakdowns. The operating license issued for each reactor includes technical specifications that define the minimum complement of safety equipment needed for operation and how quickly the reac- tor must be shut down when one or more pieces of safety equipment become unavailable.

Figure 15. NRC Operating License for Vermont Yankee (Vernon, VT)

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