U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

Monthly Archives: September 2012

NRC — An Attractive Employer to New Graduates

The NRC has been consistently ranked as one of the best places to work in the federal government but we’ve also learned that a recent Government Business Council’s report has ranked us as one of the most millennial-friendly federal agencies.

You are probably wondering why are new college grads and others in their early 20s interested in coming to work for us? First off the NRC has a compelling mission that resonates with today’s youth. The essence of the mission is to protect people and the environment. What’s not to like?

In addition, the NRC is guided by a strong set of organizational values. These values – integrity, service, openness, commitment, cooperation, excellence and respect — guide every action we take from decisions on safety, security, and environmental issues to how we perform administrative tasks to how we interact with one another as well as our stakeholders.

At the NRC, we strive to create a work environment focused on personal and professional growth. NRC offers a host of benefits to our employees, which are also important to today’s graduates. These benefits include flexible work schedules, telework, and a variety of wellness programs. We encourage employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance so that they can have time to focus on family activities as well as outside interests.

We are proud of our excellent training programs that enable employees to develop and enhance their skills sets. The NRC keeps careers exciting and encourages mobility by offering rotational opportunities in both our headquarters and regional locations. We also offer mentoring programs and support continuous education to help employees map out their career paths.

We are committed to hiring more new graduates to fill our entry level positions and encourage you to check our employment page!

Miriam Cohen
Chief Human Capital Officer

Public Outreach – The Value of Face-to-Face

John Dixon

Every year as part of its public outreach effort, the NRC holds a public meeting in the vicinity of each nuclear power plant. The meetings are designed to provide members of the local community with an opportunity to hear a report from the NRC on each plant’s safe operation and meet face-to-face with the people responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the nation’s 104 operating reactors.

Some meetings draw hundreds of participants while others are sparsely attended. Typically, the meetings for South Texas Project in Bay City, Texas, draw only a handful of members of the public. In NRC’s Region IV, we have been looking at alternatives to the traditional public meetings held in hotel conference rooms. We’ve been setting up information booths at community events and encouraging resident inspectors to meet with civic groups. As part of this effort, I decided to approach the Bay City Chamber of Commerce to see if I could speak at one of their lunch meetings.

At our request, the C of C agreed to open their Aug. 1 meeting to the general public. Flyers were mailed to the local community and we were told we drew a noticeably larger audience than usual. I provided the group with a brief synopsis of the inspections I had conducted during 2011 and described some of the duties that I, as the NRC’s Senior Resident Inspector, perform on a daily basis.

Despite living so close to a nuclear plant, most of the Bay City residents who came did not know much about the role the NRC plays in ensuring the safe operation of South Texas Project. Many expressed surprise when I described our role as an independent regulator of nuclear safety and told them we had unfettered access to the plant, to people and records. They also did not realize that we were assigned to the site, report to the facility virtually every day, are capable of responding 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are limited to a maximum assignment of seven years.

I answered a variety of questions related to how we perform inspections, how events from Fukushima have changed our actions, and how we assess the safety of each plant. All in all the meeting was quite successful and resulted in interacting with new members of the public that we had never reached before.

John Dixon
Senior Resident, South Texas Project Nuclear Plant

Spending a Saturday Afternoon at the NRC Listening to All Sides

On a beautiful fall afternoon, when many Americans were focused on college football, viewing the changing leaves (or raking them), or perhaps chasing about on suburban errands, two members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission spent part of Saturday afternoon meeting with leaders of groups opposed to nuclear power who also have complaints about the NRC.

Chairman Allison Macfarlane and Commissioner William Magwood met with the half-dozen individuals in the room at NRC headquarters usually reserved for business meetings of the five-member commission. Macfarlane, in comments opening the hour-long session, told the visitors the NRC values hearing from all points of view.

“I’m really glad to get the opportunity to meet and I look forward to hearing from all of you,” Macfarlane said at the outset of the 75-minute session.” She added after a cordial session that as a former academic she likes to hear all sides of an issue and “the public has legitimate concerns and technical knowledge.”

Magwood, who noted he has met with a number of interest groups on his visits to plants regulated by the NRC and helped set in motion improvements in the way the agency communicates with Tribal governments, said he too valued the meeting. “We like these dialogues because they give us a different perspective,” he said. He also noted, as did Macfarlane, that NRC employees “really do care about the health and safety of the American people.”

Gene Stone, of the San Clemente, Calif.-based group Residents Organized for a Safe Environment, who worked with the chairman’s office to arrange the meeting, said, “We are hoping that you will tighten the ship and through your collegial interactions work together for safety and not just the licensee.”

Topics raised by the vistors ranged from reactor-specific issues to the length of time it takes to get safety issues resolved, real time radiation monitoring, Agreement State issues, the National Environmental Policy Act, disposal of uranium mining products, and on-site waste storage. Plants mentioned in the discussion included San Onofre in California, Davis-Besse in Ohio, Palisades in Michigan, Zion in Illinois, Millstone in Connecticut, Fort Calhoun in Nebraska, and a nuclear fuel plant in Tennesse. Macfarlane was presented with two petitions that the groups said had in excess of 68,000 signatures — 24,000-plus from California — seeking the closure of the San Onofre plant near San Clemente.

Others at the meeting included David Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago; Linda Cataldo Modica of the Sierra Club in Jonesboro, Tenn.; Josh Nelson of Credo in Washington, D.C.; Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear Information Resource Service in Takoma Park, Md.; and Nancy Burton of the Connecticut Coalition against Millstone of Redding Ridge, Conn.

The NRC is a 4,000-person strong independent agency that regulates civilian uses of nuclear materials to protect people and the environment. Issues handled by the NRC range from safety improvements after the Fukushima accident to day-to-day oversight of reactor safety, and overseeing the safe use of nuclear materials in medicine and industrial settings.

Eliot Brenner
Director, Office of Public Afffairs

Two-Track System for Whistleblowers

The NRC investigates a variety of possible wrongdoings on the part of its licensees. These wrongdoings include discrimination and retaliation against workers for raising nuclear safety concerns. But the NRC can’t provide “personal remedies,” such as back pay and job reinstatement for these people, sometimes called “whistleblowers.”

Why not? The simple answer is the NRC’s authority in such cases has limits set by Congress.

NRC’s employee protection regulations implement Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1975. This act prohibits NRC licensees, contractors, and applicants from discriminating or retaliating against employees for, among other things, engaging in protected activities that include raising a nuclear safety concern.

The NRC can – and does — investigate alleged discrimination and retaliation against the individual for raising the concern, as well as any impact that concern may have on nuclear safety or security. The Department of Labor (DOL), on the other hand, has the legal authority to grant personal remedies to these individuals if the allegation is substantiated.

So, in a sense, there is a two-track process for these types of allegations. The NRC is one track; DOL is the other.

For more information about the NRC’s allegation process visit our website.  

Maria E. Schwartz
Sr. Project Manager
Office of Enforcement

The New Info Digest Hits The Streets (so to speak)

It’s that time of year again when the NRC publishes its Information Digest — an award winning publication that provides a summary of information about us and the industries we regulate. This year, we’re publishing our 24th edition.

The Information Digest is used by a wide array of people, including the public, industry stakeholders, government agencies and the media. It strives to provide a handy primer of the agency’s regulatory responsibilities and licensing activities.

This year we have incorporated InfoGraphics to help provide a visual representation of information and statistics. We’ve reduced those pie charts and replaced them with visually appealing and – we hope – more understandable graphics. It’s part of our agency’s efforts to be more open and transparent.

For your convenience, we’ve embedded hyperlinks to the electronic version of the Digest for easy navigation an access to more information on the major topics discussed. We continue to provide the NRC Facts at a Glance, a handy tear-out reference sheet that has quick facts and short answers to commonly asked questions. Also available online are all the Digest graphics, photographs and data sets.

Where can you find the Info Digest? The easiest way is through the NRC website click on Info Digest.

We also created a YouTube video that looks at what’s inside this year’s Digest.

We’re always interested in what you have to say about the Info Digest as we continue to work to make it better and more useful. Let us know with your comments below or send us an email at opa.resource@nrc.gov .

Ivonne L. Couret
Public Affairs Officer
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