U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

Enhancing NRC Public Meetings

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

pubmeetingIPThe NRC holds a lot of public meetings – more than 1,000 a year. Sometimes we seem to hit the mark with stakeholders. Sometimes not so much. In any event, we are always looking to make our meetings better. I recently co-chaired a group of NRC staff members who were tasked with providing the agency’s Executive Director for Operations (EDO) with a list of recommendations to make our public meetings better.

We took a comprehensive look at the NRC’s public meeting policies, processes, and guidance, including their implementation, and made recommendations to improve those aspects of our work. The group provided its report to the EDO earlier this year (ML15029A456).

Who was part of the group? The group’s members included representatives of the two offices that conduct by far the most NRC public meetings (the offices of Nuclear Reactor Regulation and New Reactors); members from all four NRC regions, including a public affairs officer; and many others. The task group members brought to the table extensive public meeting experience.

The task group considered additional public input provided through sources such as:

  • Years’ worth of feedback received through the NRC’s Public Meeting Feedback Form;
  • The results of extensive public outreach- and meeting-related interviews and surveys involving the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station; and
  • Input received during previous public meetings addressing public involvement.

This information was instrumental in the task group’s work and informed decisions the group made.

Now that the report is done, what are the next steps? NRC staff members are currently creating and revising our policies and guidance, including our policy statement on public meetings. Our intent is to engage the public by sharing draft products for comment and holding a public meeting once some of the improvements recommended by the task group have been made.

We hope that you will participate in those activities and continue to provide your input through the Public Meeting Feedback Form (fill out a hard copy at a meeting or provide your input electronically by clicking on “meeting feedback form” for meetings on the public meeting schedule) as well as through discussions with NRC staff. Our goal is to provide the public with useful information on our activities and to conduct business in an open manner, while at the same time ensuring that we can carry out our mission.

As the agency takes action on the recommendations, we’ll update you via the blog on proposed improvements, progress we’re making, and how the public can be involved with initiatives.

 

 

 

 

Working Together — The Southern Exposure 2015 Exercise

Roger Hannah
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region II

NRC officials participate in an exercise at the headquarters Op Center. The Op Center will be active during the upcoming Southern Exposure 2015 exercise.

NRC officials participate in an exercise at the headquarters Operations Center. The Operations Center will be active with officials participating during the upcoming Southern Exposure 2015 exercise.

Every year, NRC managers and staff members in headquarters and the agency’s four regions participate in nuclear power plant emergency exercises. The plants are required to exercise their plans every other year, and NRC response team members use these exercises to keep their skills sharp and to identify areas for improvement. The exercises provide valuable experience and make each plant’s overall emergency response program better.

State and local responders and the plant staff have a crucial role in each of those exercises, but many federal agencies that would be involved in an actual serious nuclear emergency rarely participate.

In a little more than a week, the NRC, along with state and local officials in South Carolina, Duke Energy, FEMA and the Department of Energy, will stage a full-scale exercise at the Robinson nuclear plant in South Carolina. It’s being called Southern Exposure 2015. This exercise will bring together not only the usual exercise participants, but also many other agencies that would have a role in a real event.

In addition to the NRC, FEMA and DOE, federal agencies participating include the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Labor, the Interior, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Southern Exposure 2015 will begin on Tuesday, July 21, with activities much like the exercises the NRC regularly sees. On Wednesday, July 22, the NRC will be joined by those other federal agencies in a broad response to the simulated events at the Robinson plant. The NRC and the other federal agencies will work closely with state and local officials and Duke Energy’s plant operators and managers to achieve the objectives of the exercise.

Victor McCree, the Regional Administrator for Region II, will serve as the NRC’s Site Team Director for Southern Exposure 2015, leading the NRC team in South Carolina. The NRC will also support the exercise with staff in the regional office in Atlanta and headquarters in Rockville, Md.

While McCree has participated in countless exercises, he acknowledges this one is unique. It’s a rare opportunity, he said, to work with so many organizations across federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector.

People living and traveling near the Robinson plant during the exercise may hear and see actions associated with the simulated response. These could include response vehicles, field monitoring teams and low-flying aircraft, but the exercise should not affect normal traffic or other activities in the area.

While the likelihood of a severe nuclear accident in this country is low, the Southern Exposure 2015 exercise is designed to allow all the organizations involved, federal, state and local, to address the simulated accident’s effects on the economy, environment and public health – and be better prepared to respond if the events were real.

A Monday Quiz — A Blue Glow

The Advanced Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory uses plate type fuel in a clover leaf arrangement. The blue glow around the core is known as Cherenkov radiation. Courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory.

This Advanced Test Reactor runs tests that determine how fuels and materials react when bombarded by streams of neutrons and gamma rays under a variety of pressure and temperature conditions. Information that would normally require years to gather from normal reactor operations can be obtained in a matter of weeks or months. The primary “customer” of the reactor is the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

The NRC licenses 31 research and test reactors in 21 states (as of 2014); eight research reactors are being decommissioned. We also license the operators and conduct some 50 inspections each year. DOE, however, regulates this particular test reactor.

Quiz:

Where is this test reactor located?
What scientist (and Nobel Prize winner) gave his name to the blue glow seen in this photo?

 

Keeping the NRC’s Rules Up to Date

Anthony de Jesus
Regulations Specialist

NRC’s regulations (found in 10 CFR, Code of Federal Regulations) are very important. They are how we do our job of protecting people and the environment.

10cfrtwopartjpgOur rules cover these three main areas:

  • Commercial reactors for generating electric power and research and test reactors used for research, testing, and training.
  • Materials – Uses of nuclear materials in medical, industrial, and academic settings and facilities that produce nuclear fuel.
  • Waste – Transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities from service.

To keep all these rules, on all these topics, up-to-date, we use a single process, called the Common Prioritization of Rulemaking, to prioritize our rulemaking activities.

Each year we identify the rules already under development and any new rules that need to be written. Using the same criteria, we rank by priority, every rule, regardless of the regulatory area. This way we ensure that we are focusing our resources on the high priority rules that most contribute to the NRC’s key strategic goals of safety and security. Through this annual review we also monitor the progress of our rulemaking activities and develop budget estimates for preparing new rules.

rulemaking web 1Because the NRC is committed to transparency, participation, and collaboration in our regulatory activities, we created a new “Rulemaking Priorities” Web page. This page allows us to provide periodic updates concerning rulemaking developments, which responds to a recommendation proposed by the Administrative Conference of the United States.

Our new page provides the rulemaking activities identified and prioritized through our Common Prioritization of Rulemaking process. From this page you can access the methodology that NRC staff uses to prioritize our rulemaking activities.

Each rulemaking activity listed on this new Web page is linked to further information on that rulemaking, including:

  • an abstract that describes the rule
  • a prioritization score
  • a justification describing how the rule was prioritized
  • estimated target dates for completion of the rule

We plan to update the web page regularly so this information remains up to date. We hope this new page will help you understand how the NRC prioritizes its rulemaking activities. After all, our regulations are at the heart of what the NRC does for a living.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,694 other followers

%d bloggers like this: