NRC Public Meetings – Deciphering the Categories

A public meeting about the San Onofre nuclear power plant draws a large crowd.
A public meeting about the San Onofre nuclear power plant draws a large crowd.
Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

One of my jobs at the NRC is managing the agency’s Meeting Facilitation and Advisor Program. This means, I train employees to facilitate public meetings and recommend ways to make public meetings as meaningful as possible. One of the challenges I face is explaining – both to those inside and outside the agency – what the three meeting categories mean. The answer? Simply this: the category of the meeting is a reflection of the purpose of the meeting.Category 1 meetings, for example, are between the NRC and one other party – typically a licensee of the NRC, a vendor, or an applicant or potential applicant for a license. The NRC has these types of meetings in a public forum to provide transparency even though the purpose is to have a one-on-one discussion. The public can observe the meeting and has the opportunity to ask questions of the NRC after the business portion of the meeting, but doesn’t participate in the discussion itself.

Category 2 meetings are between the NRC and a number of individuals representing groups such as licensees, vendors, other federal agencies, or non-governmental organizations. Like Category 1 meetings, the NRC holds these meetings in a public forum. The purpose of the meeting is for the NRC to conduct a discussion with the designated group. The public can observe the meeting and ask questions of the NRC after the business portion of the meeting, but again, doesn’t participate in the discussion itself.

A common type of Category 2 meeting is a roundtable meeting where the NRC invites representatives of the broad spectrum of interests affected by an issue to engage in discussion with each other and the NRC, with the public in an observing role.

Category 3 meetings are fully engaged discussions between the NRC and the public (as well as stakeholders that might include other government agencies, the industry and others). Public participation is actively sought at this type of meeting, which has the widest participation opportunities and is specifically tailored for the public to comment or ask questions.

Category 3 meetings are also known as Town Hall meetings. We might hold such a meeting to inform the public about a particular issue, respond to questions or receive comments from attendees. These meetings might be preceded by other information opportunities, such as a poster session or open house.

We do our best to conduct public meetings that not only accomplish a particular purpose, but also allow the public to observe and participate. The meeting category just gives an indication of what kind of meeting you can expect.

Additional Information on our public meeting policies can be found on our web site.

Author: Moderator

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

8 thoughts on “NRC Public Meetings – Deciphering the Categories”

  1. Well i stumbled upon this site while looking up information about microphones somehow, but It’s always interesting to learn more about the processes involved in government and community organization. Good read…

  2. Re: “I agree that a facilitator should not become the focus of a meeting, however I believe one of the facilitator’s duties is to make sure that meeting participants understand each other.”

    Lance, I both admire, sympathize and don’t envy the NRC crews at these meetings, encountering and trying to educate many whom are simply philosophically implacable at accepting any reassurance of proof or fact or enlightenment. My hat’s off to all of you!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  3. NRC Public Category 3 Meetings are good provided public is given a chance to ask questions. In the last SCE NRC Public Meeting on November 30, 2012, I raised my hand for more than 30 minutes to give vital information to the NRC Panel, but the Moderator Turned away always giving me a big smile and denying a chance to ask a question by handing microphone to somebody else. The question is why….Thanks

  4. I appreciate your comments on our public meetings and facilitation practices and would like to weigh in on a few of the points you made.

    I agree that a facilitator should not become the focus of a meeting, however I believe one of the facilitator’s duties is to make sure that meeting participants understand each other. When necessary, a facilitator should step in to re-phrase a comment if he or she believes the comment was unclear somehow to other participants. Hopefully, this can be done quickly as to avoid taking too much time away from public participation.

    I am happy to communicate with NRC facilitators again the need for them to work towards having a minimal presence at a meeting and ensuring that all participants have an opportunity to speak. We are always working towards improving upon our skills, and striving to make meetings as productive as possible.

    I hope that you will continue to participate in our public meetings and that you will continue to provide input on how we can make improvements.

    Lance Rakovan

  5. Completely agree with you CaptD. This filibustering technique is an effective way to “chill” the audience and unfortunately it is practiced too often in DC.

  6. This is a noble and admirable but often thankless effort at public education, considering that most the public attending walk in with bogeymen of FUD saddled their backs. If there was a way to also level the playing field and soothe blind passions for rational discussion by a initial short film/lecture on how nuclear energy operations work and nuclear’s near impeccable safety record for 60 years around the world and such, it’d do greatly in assuaging any Doomsday jitters that it’s all over if a hammer just drops anywhere inside the giant eggshells of nuclear plants! Wish I was there!

    Keep chugging and FUD busting!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  7. Lance, You need to do a much better job training your Facilitators, A Facilitator should not become the focus of the meeting and or “re-explain” what previous comments mean, but rather insure that the audience gets the maximum amount of time to interact with the NRC on the rare times when these meetings are open to actual public participation!

    The last SCE – NRR meeting is a perfect example of what not to do, the Facilitator was trying to take the limelight and several in the audience even called him on it! Further those waiting to speak via the phone were angered when he said that no one else was waiting to speak, when I know of at least two people that had been on hold to speak after having been questioned by whoever was running that part of the show!

    The NRC needs to step up and change the way it handles meetings if it is going to fulfill its “NRC Public Meetings and Involvement”, which states, “The NRC considers public involvement in, and information about, our activities to be a cornerstone of strong, fair regulation of the nuclear industry.”

    BTW: The meetings videos need to be improved as the quality is often poor, no pun intended!

  8. Is there a way for the public to ask for a topic to be discussed or are the meeting topics only the owners and supporters of nuclear power. If there has been would you please send SITE info for my eyes, thanks.

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