Improving Regulation at the NRC

Last month, President Obama issued Executive Order 13653, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.” While this executive order does not apply to independent regulatory agencies such as the NRC, you may be interested to learn that the NRC put in place many of these improvements long before the order was issued.

For instance, the order encourages agencies issuing proposed rules “to afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet” for “at least 60 days.” The NRC already offers opportunities to comment on proposed rules through e-mail and the website (All of NRC’s rulemaking dockets are accessible here.) The NRC usually gives the public 75 days to comment on proposed rules.

In addition, the order encourages agencies to consider the costs and benefits of regulatory actions. To the extent it is allowed under the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC does this for new or modified requirements for certain regulated facilities as part of its “backfitting” analyses. We consider whether the costs of modifying facilities to comply with new requirements are justified by a substantial increase in the protection of public health and safety or the common defense and security. We should point out that cost is not considered if we decide the modifications are absolutely necessary to keep the public safe and secure.

The order also says that agencies should adopt specific performance objectives, rather than specifying the actions that must be adopted. The NRC already does this through its performance-based regulations. In performance-based regulation, the agency sets the goal, but lets those regulated decide how to accomplish that goal.

The White House also issued a memorandum accompanying the order that directs agencies to “develop plans for making information concerning their regulatory compliance and enforcement activities accessible, downloadable, and searchable online.” The NRC already provides access to this kind of information through and our public ADAMS system. In fact, the NRC website provides the daily Status Report, Event Notifications, a Safety Performance Summary, inspection reports, enforcement actions, press releases, and public meeting information for each plant.

Recently, the NRC also created an Open Government website, which provides links to high-value data sets and other information that may be of interest to you.

Sean Croston
NRC Attorney
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