Are We Seeing Clearly?

The lens of the eye is one of the more sensitive tissues in the body to radiation, especially related to forming cataracts. The current NRC dose limit for the eye is 15 rem in a year, which is lower than the limits for other single organs. (The unit “rem” is used to measure the amount of radiation you get from a source – 0.1 rem is the average amount each of us gets each year from naturally occurring radiation.)

Now, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has found that the eye is more sensitive than previously thought. Based on this, the ICRP has recommended a new lower dose limit for the lens of the eye. The new recommendation is two rem a year, averaged over the course of five years, with no single year exceeding five rem. Copies of the ICRP statement are available on the NRC website.

While the best current evidence is that no one in the U.S. has been receiving exposure to the lens of the eye at levels close to our current limits, some people working with radiation are getting exposures at, or slightly above, the new international recommendations.

We at NRC have been talking with licensees and other stakeholders for the past two years about possible changes to our radiation protection regulations as part of a process to ask for early input related to radiation protection rulemaking. These new international recommendations for limits to the lens of the eye are yet another issue that we need to consider.

To continue talking with stakeholders, we published a notice soliciting stakeholder input in the Federal Register on August 31, 2011. The notice gives background on the issue, and asks questions about the different ways in which a change might be written, and the kinds of impacts that might occur if a change was made. The Federal Register notice can also be accessed from the the NRC website at: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/rulemaking/potential-rulemaking/opt-revise.html

We welcome comments from all of those interested in the issue. Comments are due by October 31, 2011. The notice describes different ways in which comments can be sent to us.

Based on the comments received, we will be preparing a paper for Commission consideration that will include options for how the agency may proceed. So, please let us know – what should we do to see clearly?

Donald A. Cool, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor, Radiation Safety and International Liaison

The NRC Celebrates the Open Government Partnership

President Obama’s Open Government Initiative has spurred many agencies, including the NRC, to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration, especially through the use of new web-based technologies. We’ve been pleased to take an active role in this initiative with the NRC Approach to Open Government.

Today, the President signs the Open Government Partnership (OGP) declaration. OGP is an effort to improve governments around the world by promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance. Today, as part of OGP’s formal launch, we’re reiterating our commitment to these objectives and underscoring our accomplishments to date.

As far back as 1977, when we first issued our “Principles of Good Regulation,” the NRC has placed a high value on openness in the regulatory process. But the recent spirit of Open Government has brought about a variety of new efforts, including the following examples:

• Social Media: In January, as part of our flagship Open Government initiative, we launched this public blog. Since it was established, the blog has had over 127,000 views and proved especially useful in enabling quick public communications during and after the events at the nuclear facilities in Fukushima, Japan, and during the recent east coast earthquake and hurricanes. More recently, we’ve expanded our social media presence with a Twitter feed (@NRCgov) and You-Tube channel (NRCgov) to offer even more ways to interact with and inform the public, and raise awareness about our agency and its mission.

• Public Website: In April, we deployed the latest redesign of our public website, which features a modern look-and-feel, streamlined navigation, and rich features and functionality to make it quicker and easier for you to find the information you want. Since its launch, the site’s score on the American Customer Satisfaction Index has increased from 72 to 74, with steady increases in the areas of content, look-and-feel, navigation, and online transparency.

• Data.gov: Since January, the NRC has added 4 new datasets to Data.gov: Nuclear Power Plant Inspection Reports, Status of NRC Regulated Complex Materials Sites Currently Undergoing Decommissioning, Significant Enforcement Actions, and Reactor Materials Embrittlement. To date, this brings the total number of datasets published since April 2010 to 26, significantly more than the 17 identified in our original Open Government Plan. Check our Open Government page for a complete list of the NRC’s High-Value Datasets.

But our work on Open Government is not done. We’re continuing to add new datasets, including one on nuclear plant performance indicators to be published soon. We’re also working on a way to help smart phone users get quick access to our information when they attend an NRC meeting or other event. (More on this in an upcoming blog post).

Most importantly, we plan to hold a public meeting this fall to solicit stakeholder feedback and suggestions for the next version of our Open Government Plan to be published in the spring of 2012. We want your input, so look for more information soon via our Public Meeting Notice page and this blog about how you can participate.

Francine F. Goldberg
Co-Chair, Open Government Advisory Group
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