The Job of a Health Physicist at the NRC

The Office of New Reactors (NRO) evaluates designs for new reactors and license applications to make sure they meet the necessary laws and regulations. NRO staffers complete these reviews after we’ve gathered the information we need to conclude the design or proposed reactor can protect public health and safety and the environment.

I’m one of nine NRO health physicists who participate in these reviews. We work to ensure the plant will protect people from the reactor’s radiation, both during normal operation and during accidents. We have engineering or physical science degrees, and our training focuses on radiation sources in a nuclear reactor, how they could impact people and the environment, and how to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.

Our work helps ensure that new reactors’ structures, systems and components will minimize radiation exposures to plant personnel and members of the public — to the extent reasonable with modern technology. The reviews also consider risks from hazards that are not radiological, so that when we reduce radiation risk we don’t inadvertently increase risk from other hazards.

NRO health physicists also review the operational programs and procedures for proposed new reactors to make sure that management and personnel keep radiation exposures as low as is reasonably achievable through proper training, behavior and decisionmaking.

Our work always focuses on ensuring the possible health risks and environmental hazards associated with new reactors are managed before the reactors are approved and built.

Sara Bernal
Health Physicist