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December 4, 2007

Environmental Defense Suggests Potential Model for Restructuring NNI

Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 19, 2007, Environmental Defense (ED) issued a press release that states that the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is not effectively addressing the potential risks of nanotechnology, and that a potential model for resolving the conflict between NNI’s dual charges to both promote and oversee the technology could be drawn from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Like the NNI, the AEC, first established in 1946, was tasked with both encouraging the development and use of nuclear power and regulating its safety. Concerns about this dual charge led Congress to abolish the AEC in 1975, and to assign its risk research and oversight functions to a new entity, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the press release, ED suggests that an entity within NNI, “either newly formed or significantly elevated in status,” could be given independent budgetary and management authority, responsibility, accountability, and resources to develop and direct the overall federal nanomaterial risk research strategy.