What is the NQA-1 Standard?

NRC and NQA-1 Standards and Requirements

NQA-1 is a nuclear quality assurance standard for nuclear facilities in the U.S. It relates to the design, construction and operation of such sites, and is a highly-regarded industry standard. NQA-1 was created by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1979, and it has evolved over time to be one of the primary standards for implementing federal regulations at nuclear power plants and fuel processing plants.

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In 1983, ASME added further guidelines known as NQA-2, and NQA-3 followed later in 1989. However, in 1994 the three standards were merged into one and they re-assumed the original NQA-1 title. Today, nuclear facilities across the country abide by the latest version of this quality control standard, which is now known as NQA-1-2008.


The NQA-1 standard is a safety driven standard that is split into four parts to lay out the requirements for quality assurance and other non-mandatory guidance for nuclear sites. It includes:


  • 1.      Requirements for Quality Assurance Programs for Nuclear Facilities.
  • 2.      Quality Assurance Requirements for Nuclear Facility Applications.
  • 3.      Non-mandatory Guidance and Application Appendices
  • 4.      Non-mandatory Appendices: Positions and Applications Matrices.

When viewed in terms of the quality control process and general procedures, part one of the NQA-1 arguably provides the most guidelines. Specifically, it includes eighteen different criteria for which a facility could be judged on, and they are, in essence, the basic requirements of a quality operation. They are:


1. Organization

10. Inspection

2. Quality Assurance Program

11. Test Control

3. Design Control

12. Control of Measuring & Test Equipment

4. Procurement Document Control

13. Handling, Storage & Equipment

5. Instructions, Procedures, & Drawings

14. Inspection, Tests & Operating Status

6. Document Control

15. Control of Nonconforming Items

7. Control of Purchased Items & Services

16. Corrective Action

8. Identification and Control of Items

17. Quality Assurance Records

9. Control of Special Processes

18. Audits

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) endorsed parts of the NQA-1 as far back as 1983, but was not always ready to adopt the standard in its entirety, despite the fact that a large number of industry experts agreed that the NQA-1 was the most authoritative industry standard. However, as of 2010, the NRC reported that it found the latest version of NQA-1 to be more definitive than the ISO 9001 requirements that they also used, and the standard was being recommended for implementation at Exelon Nuclear sites.

The Department of Energy, (DOE) was always a little more forthcoming in its support for the NQA-1 standard, and this undoubtedly lent more credence to the future of NQA-1 as a quality assurance standard at U.S. nuclear facilities. It is widely applied at a large number of DOE facilities. These facilities include next generation nuclear power plants, mixed oxide fuel fabrication facilities, defense waste processing facilities, and more.

NQA-1 is constantly being revised and added to by ASME as it seeks to ensure operational safety at all nuclear sites and keep up with the latest technological advances. This, and the fact that the standard is also being used at nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities around the world, means its place as a quality assurance standard for our future energy needs is guaranteed for years to come.


What is the Quality Assurance ?

“… Quality Assurance” comprises “all those planned and systematic actions necessary to provide adequate confidence that a structure, system, or component will perform satisfactorily in service.”

(ASME NQA-1-2008)

Quite simply, the NQA-1 standard and certification is focused on safety and safety standards of products, processes and documentation like ASME versus a  process-driven standard such as ISO.


Scope of NQA-1 Standard

The quality control assurance standard for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the DoE focuses on “ …the achievement of results, emphasizing the role of the individual and line management in the achievement of quality, and fosters the application of these requirements in a manner consistent with the relative importance of the item or activity.”

Keep in mind that ISO can be classified as a customer based or customer centric standard, while NQA-1 is a safety standard with more detail and rigor placed on documents and documentation, training and other related processes.