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James B. O’Brien - Director, Office of Nuclear Safety

James B. O’Brien

Dr. James O’Brien has over 30 years’ experience in nuclear engineering, operations, and safety.  In this role as Director of the Office of Nuclear Safety, he develops and maintains the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear safety Directives and Standards and provides assistance to DOE Program and Field Offices in implementing the nuclear safety requirements and sharing best practices. As part of his current duties, Dr. O’Brien has led the development of several significant Nuclear Safety Directives, including DOE’s Nuclear Safety Policy, which provides the framework for safe operations at DOE’s nuclear facilities. While at DOE, he also served in the Office of Independent Oversight where he performed reviews of DOE’s emergency management and nuclear safety programs at DOE sites.

Prior to working at DOE, Dr. O’Brien worked for nine years at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). At the NRC, he was responsible for the development of nuclear safety requirements and standards related to renewing commercial nuclear power plant licenses and emergency preparedness. He also supported the NRC’s review of plant-specific probabilistic risk assessments and performed inspections of emergency preparedness programs at commercial nuclear power plants and research reactors. As part of his duties, Dr. O’Brien developed key regulatory documents related to assessing of the environmental impact of continued operation of nuclear power plants as a result of renewing their operating license and the response to potential emergency conditions at nuclear power plants.

Dr. O’Brien started his professional career working at a commercial nuclear power plant where he served as a shift supervisor, reactor engineer, and project engineer. Dr. O’Brien spent 10 years working at the plant and was involved in several critical activities including the completion of startup testing at the nuclear plant and bringing the plant to initial criticality and commercial operation. He also served as refueling floor coordinator for the first refueling of the reactor.

Dr. O’Brien holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from North Carolina State University, a Master of Science degree in Materials Engineering from Drexel University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Maryland.  He is a registered Professional Engineer.