Atomic Energy Act 68 Stat 919 (1954)

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ATOMIC ENERGY ACT 68 Stat 919 (1954)

The initial Atomic Energy Act (1946) had created an independent five-person Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to exercise complete civilian control over the production of atomic energy and associated research programs. By the early 1950s, criticism of the statute mounted because it limited the role of private enterprise in the atomic energy field, overemphasized military phases, and created un-warranted secrecy, precluding the dissemination of technical information to other nations.

The 1954 Amendment addressed these concerns. Its overriding policy objective, strongly supported by President dwight d. eisenhower, was to facilitate the commercial development and exploitation of nuclear power by private industry. The key provisions were: private ownership of nuclear facilities; private use of fissionable material (though the AEC still retained title, until revision in 1964); liberalized patenting rights; industrial access to needed technical information; and a program for international cooperation in developing peaceful applications of nuclear energy, particularly nuclear power. The principal focus of the act was to make the nuclear industry economically independent and internally competitive.

Regulatory provisions of the 1954 act authorized the AEC to license facilities and operators producing or using radioactive materials. This licensing process, subject to judicial review by the terms of the act, was to protect the public health, safety, life, and property. Little guidance or standards for licensure was provided, and the question of safety hazards from nuclear technology was not considered. Thus the AEC's administration of the act was slowly hammered out through the regulatory process; that situation continued after the Commission was folded into the Department of Energy in 1974.

Paul L. Murphy


Rolph, Elizabeth S. 1979 Nuclear Power and the Public Safety. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books.