State Liaison Officers – Keys to a State-Federal Nuclear Regulatory Partnership
July 12, 2013
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Senior Liaison Program Manager
The NRC knows that states have a keen interest in how nuclear activities are regulated. After all, both the NRC and the states want to protect public health and safety and the environment. To make sure we’re working together and that states are “in the loop” with NRC activities, we have a State Liaison Officer program.
Under this program, every governor appoints a State Liaison Officer who works directly with the NRC’s Regional State Liaison Officers. The NRC’s regional liaisons work in each of our four regional offices.
The NRC liaisons talk regularly with their state counterparts about materials, reactor and fuel cycle facilities and any specific topics of interest. Our liaisons also keep interested local and Tribal governments informed, on a case-by-case basis. These discussions give the NRC a chance to answer questions that state, local, and Tribal officials may have. We can make sure they know about NRC activities and the opportunities for participation. For example, we invite State Liaison Officers to observe NRC inspections so they can better understand what we look at and the questions we ask. We also participate in emergency exercises with them. These exercises allow staff at the NRC, a licensed facility, and in state and local governments to practice procedures that would be used in a real emergency.
By working with the State Liaison officers, the NRC develops solid relationships with each of the states and keeps lines of communication open. Creating and maintaining these partnerships lays a firm foundation for working together on any issues that may arise.
Over the years, we have learned there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to being an effective liaison. States’ interests and needs can vary widely and shape how our regional liaisons communicate with them. The regional liaison officers work hard and take great pride in building strong relationships with their state counterparts, as well as with some local and Tribal partners.
We originally launched the State Liaison Officer program in 1976 at the request of some state groups, including the National Governors Association. We have a new YouTube video that highlights the unique contribution this program makes to the NRC’s mission. (Note: The state liaison program is separate from the NRC’s Agreement State program. Agreement States take over regulating certain types of nuclear materials within their borders after signing agreements with us. For additional information about the Agreement State program, see this previous blog post.)