What Happens When You Submit a Freedom of Information Act Request to the NRC?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed by Congress in 1966. It lets you, whether you’re a citizen or not, request documents from any federal agency, and the agency must give you copies, unless they fall under one of nine exemptions.

How do you to make a FOIA request? You submit a letter or email with as many specifics as possible. Remember that the more specific you are about the information you want, the more likely we’ll be able to locate the information.

Under FOIA, you can ask for a copy of any NRC document. This does not mean, however, that the NRC will give you anything you want. The Act requires the NRC to withhold sensitive information, such as personal privacy information, allegation information, investigative related records, proprietary information, classified or safeguards information. If we do withhold information from you, we will tell you why.

You should also understand that the purpose of the Act is to give the public access to existing information. That is, FOIA does not require us to create documents to satisfy your request, or to conduct research or investigations or analyze data to answer your written questions.

After we receive your request, we will send you a letter giving you the name and phone number of the FOIA specialist assigned to your request. We also will tell you if we’re going to charge you for finding, reviewing, and copying the documents.

The agency will then conduct a search for the information you requested, and determine if what we find can be given to you. If information is withheld from you, you will be allowed to appeal the withholding. Instructions on how to appeal will be provided to you.

We may post the redacted documents online so that others can see recent FOIA requests.

How long does the process take? Generally, we can get you the information you asked for in 20 working days. If your request is complicated — for instance, the information you want is scattered in offices across the NRC — we try to get the information back to you in 30 working days. We are still working on a large number of FOIA requests received as a result of the Fukushima accident in Japan last March, so sometimes response times are longer than normal.

If you have any questions, our FOIA web site is a good place to start.

Margie Janney
Deputy Director, Information and Records Services Division

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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