President Harry S. Truman signed the McMahon/Atomic Energy Act on August 1, 1946, transferring the control of atomic energy from military to civilianhands, effective on January 1, 1947. This shift gave the members of the AEC complete control of the plants, laboratories, equipment, and personnel assembled during the war to produce the atomic bomb.
During its initial establishment and subsequent operationalization, the AEC played a key role in the institutional development of Ecosystem ecology. Specifically, it provided crucial financial resources, allowing for ecological research to take place. Perhaps even more importantly, it enabled ecologists with a wide range of groundbreaking techniques for the completion of their research. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the AEC also approved funding for numerous bioenvironmental projects in the arctic and subarctic regions. These projects were designed to examine the effects of nuclear energy upon the environment and were a part of the AEC’s attempt at creating peaceful applications of atomic energy.
An increasing number of critics during the 1960s charged that the AEC's regulations were insufficiently rigorous in several important areas, including radiation protection standards, nuclear reactor safety, plant siting, and environmental protection. By 1974, the AEC's regulatory programs had come under such strong attack that the U.S. Congress decided to abolish the AEC. The AEC was abolished by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, which assigned its functions to two new agencies: the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. On August 4, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed into law The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, which created the Department of Energy. The new agency assumed the responsibilities of the Federal Energy Administration (FEA), the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), the Federal Power Commission (FPC), and various other Federal agencies.