Senior Public Affairs Officer
- NRC officials tour one of the damaged units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during their trip in February.
In February, an NRC delegation, mostly comprised of senior managers responsible for reactor oversight, travelled to Japan to see, hear about and learn from the accident there in March 2011.
I was there to record the images and sounds of the trip – from the meetings to the tours of facilities, including the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, and the surrounding countryside. In interviews and conversations, I heard varied perspectives, but my focus was almost completely on people:
- The people whose homes and businesses and schools now sit abandoned near the plant – some knowing they may never go home again.
- The people who worked at the plant during and after the accident trying to keep the situation from being worse.
- The people who now work at the site donning protective clothing each day as they slowly tackle the mammoth cleanup.
- The people across Japan who continue to struggle with their view of nuclear power.
I wish we had been able to spend more time in the evacuated areas near the plant, but even the hours we were there carved indelible images in my memory. It’s interesting how seeing areas without people made me think about the missing people even more.
When it comes to nuclear safety, the most important people are those working inside or living closest to the plants. There is no stronger evidence than the images we captured during the trip.
It was difficult to distill all we saw and heard into the short video we posted on the NRC YouTube channel, but I hope we were able to show the essence of the trip…and for me, it was all about people.
One of the ways the public can take part in NRC actions involves asking the agency to issue new rules or change existing ones. The NRC’s website describes this “petition for rulemaking” process in detail, including how to submit a petition and what information the NRC needs in order to consider the request.
At its most basic, a petition needs to explain the issue and why the petitioner believes action is needed. The petition should include whatever supporting information is available. One example of a successful petition involved revising NRC requirements for emergency planning at nuclear power plants. The petition led to a new rule that allows state and local governments to include stockpiles of potassium iodide for possible use in the event of an emergency at a nuclear power plant.
Starting the process can be as simple as consulting with the NRC before filing a petition. We’ll provide information about the process, our regulations, and what we understand about the issues you intend to raise. If a petition falls short of the legal requirements, we’ll explain how to meet our criteria. The petitioner then has the chance to send us more information.
When petitions meet the requirements, we enter them in our review process and announce our review in the Federal Register. If public comment can play a role in resolving the petition, the Federal Register notice explains how the public can provide their views.
The NRC staff then evaluates the petition and any public comments to decide whether to start our rulemaking process. We stay in contact with the petitioner with periodic updates on the status of the staff’s work on the petition.
If we deny a petition we announce the decision in the Federal Register and explain our reasons. We also respond to any public comments on the petition.
If we accept a petition for consideration in our rulemaking process, the Federal Register notice explains how we intend to move forward. We also describe how the public can keep track of the NRC’s actions on the petition. If the NRC issues a proposed or final rule related to the petition, our Federal Register notice on the rule will explain how we have addressed the petition’s concerns.
We’re currently updating our rulemaking petition process with a proposed rule we issued on May 3, 2013 (78 FR 25886). The revisions would:
- Expand a petitioner’s access to the NRC by allowing consultation with our staff both before and after filing a petition for rulemaking;
- Improve the content requirements for a petition for rulemaking;
- Clarify our evaluation criteria;
- Explain our internal process for receiving, closing and resolving a petition; and
- Update information for tracking the status of petitions and subsequent rulemaking actions.
The NRC’s other petition process allows anyone to ask the agency to take an enforcement action against a nuclear power plant or other NRC licensee. We discussed these processes on the blog in 2011.