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Back to Archives | Back to April 2011 Contents 

Safeguarding U.S. Nuclear Reactors and Nuclear Materials

By David Krupnick, Deputy Director, Office of Investigations, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C.



The Office of Investigations,
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission


bout 10 years ago, as the Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General, I hosted a gathering of the Inspector General Council at my office in Chicago. At the start of the meeting, all of the agency representatives, mostly special agents in charge, introduced themselves. The usual agencies were represented: the HHS, the Housing and Urban Development Department, the Agriculture Department, the Education Department, the Transportation Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and several others. One of the agency representatives introduced himself as the field office director (FOD) for Region III of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Office of Investigations. I had to admit that I was not aware that NRC even had a law enforcement division aside from its Office of Inspector General.

Following the meeting, the NRC FOD spent a great deal of time explaining to the group about what his agency did and how it fit into the law enforcement community. He also detailed a couple of investigations his office conducted regarding willful misconduct at two commercial nuclear reactor sites. We were all impressed by the agency and its mission. At the time, I certainly did not think that someday I would actually work for the agency. Now, it is my turn to share information and insight on today’s NRC Office of Investigations (OI).

As one of the more unique federal law enforcement agencies, the NRC-OI is charged with conducting criminal and civil investigations related to the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors and other commercial uses of nuclear materials. Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, the NRC-OI currently has 33 criminal investigators and 8 investigative and operational support staff. The NRC-OI’s four regional field offices are located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Lisle, Illinois; Arlington, Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia.

The NRC-OI was established as an independent organization, separate and distinct from the NRC Office of Inspector General in 1982.

All NRC-OI special agents have extensive experience, with each having an average of 16 years of federal law enforcement service. Our special agents all come from other federal law enforcement agencies such as the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the FBI; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the Inspector General community. Many also have extensive white-collar and financial investigative experience.

The NRC-OI conducts its investigations in accordance with the investigative professional standards of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) (formerly PCIE) Quality Standards for Investigations. The NRC-OI makes referrals of substantiated criminal cases to the Justice Department for prosecution consideration and also conducts civil investigations.

The NRC’s mission is to license and regulate U.S. civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment. The NRC’s vision is excellence in regulating the safe and secure use and management of radioactive materials for the public good. The mission and vision provide the framework for the agency’s strategies and goals, which in turn guide the allocation of resources across the agency. The NRC-OI aligns with the agency’s regulatory programs and strategic values to provide for the safe use of radioactive materials and nuclear fuels for beneficial civilian purposes that are enabled by the agency’s adherence to the principles of good regulation, independence, openness, efficiency, clarity, and reliability and by providing regulatory actions that are effective, realistic, and timely.

The NRC-OI’s investigative jurisdiction extends to the investigation of alleged wrongdoing by licensees, certificate holders, permittees, or applicants by contractors, subcontractors, and vendors of such entities, and by management, supervisory, and other employed personnel of such entities who may have committed violations of the Atomic Energy Act; the Energy Reorganization Act; and rules, orders, and license conditions issued by the NRC. Typical investigations include product substitution and substandard parts, exportation of licensed materials to prohibited countries, discrimination against employees for reporting safety concerns, willful disregard of regulations, and other substantive matters. In fiscal year 2009, the NRC-OI closed 140 investigations, and all cases developed sufficient information to reach a conclusion of substantiated or unsubstantiated wrongdoing.

Additionally, during the course of its investigations, the NRC-OI may uncover potentially safety-significant issues that are not related to wrongdoing. In these instances, the NRC-OI forwards this information to the appropriate NRC technical staff in a timely manner for appropriate action. NRC-OI also provides investigative assistance directly to the NRC staff when requested. Generally, these “assists to staff” are matters of regulatory concern for which the staff has requested the NRC-OI’s investigative expertise, but these may not involve a specific indication of wrongdoing. The NRC-OI also regularly supports the law enforcement community by providing expertise to a variety of agencies that need guidance and direction with licensing and nuclear materials handling issues.

Besides being a professional federal law enforcement organization, the NRC-OI is proud to be a part of the larger NRC. For the third year in a row, the NRC was named the Best Place to Work in the Federal Government in 2010 in the Best Places to Work rankings (www.bestplacestowork.org/BPTW/rankings) and was a Silver winner in the 2010 Best Employers for Healthier Lifestyles rankings (www.businessgrouphealth.org/pressrelease.cfm?ID=158).

NRC-OI is a relatively small law enforcement component within a larger regulatory agency. This has its challenges and its rewards. Our placement within the organization has enabled us to serve both internal and external stakeholders. Overall, the NRC-OI is continuing its mission yet meeting the challenges that we will face: challenges associated with the nuclear program of the future. ■

Law enforcement agencies can obtain assistance from the NRC by contacting the closest regional office:

NRC headquarters (Rockville, Maryland): 301-415-2372

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, field office: 610-37-5305

Atlanta, Georgia, field office: 404-997-4871

Chicago, Illinois, field office: 630-829-9672

Dallas, Texas, field office: 817-860-8110


Please cite as:

David Krupnick, "Safeguarding U.S. Nuclear Reactors and Nuclear Materials," The Police Chief 78 (April 2011): 110–111.


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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 3, April 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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