Much has been written about regulation over the years, including whether or not the nuclear industry is overregulated or whether the regulator is in the industry’s “pocket.” Having a capable and independent regulator is important to the industry for a number of reasons, such as ensuring the safety and security of nuclear facilities and the trust an effective regulator can engender in vendors, investors, international organizations, and the public. However, regulation simply to engender trust or ensure all voices are heard is neither effective nor sufficiently adaptive to support a vibrant and innovative industry. Moreover, overregulation slows innovation, stifles creativity, drives costs upward, and creates scheduling challenges.
So how did the Nuclear Regulatory Commission become the “gold standard” of regulation? The pat response is because of its long history, experience, and available resources. I would contend, however, that what the NRC did better than most—if not all—national nuclear regulators was innovate and develop new ideas and act as the cocreator of the nuclear industry.