U.S. NRC Blog

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The NRC Commission Has Held 5,000 Meetings—Give or Take

Annette Vietti-Cook
Secretary of the Commission

 

After one of our commissioners noted a milestone in July – the 5,000th meeting of the NRC’s Commission – we thought it might be useful to share what the Secretary of the Commission does behind-the-scenes in planning Commission meetings. There is much more planning than you might think.

The NRC Commissioners conduct a public meeting. Annette Vietti-Cook is on the left.

The NRC Commissioners conduct a public meeting. Annette Vietti-Cook is on the left.

First some background. The “Commission,” in NRC-speak, means the presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Commissioners acting together. At full-strength there are five Commissioners. The Commission sets policy for the NRC, develops regulations on nuclear reactor and nuclear materials safety, issues orders to licensees and adjudicates legal matters.

The federal Sunshine Act requires that any time the Commissioners meet to conduct agency business, the meeting must be public. Exceptions to this requirement are made when the Commission discusses matters such as security or confidential legal, personnel, personal or proprietary information. Our regulations lay out how we will meet the Sunshine Act requirements.

Public Commission meetings are held at NRC headquarters in the Commissioners’ Conference Room, with planning starting months in advance. This is where the staff members in the NRC’s Office of the Secretary (we call it SECY) come into play.

To prepare for the meeting, SECY works with NRC staff to plan agendas for proposed public meetings, including lists of potential internal and external contributors, which are intended to provide the Commission with a range of perspectives.

In the weeks ahead of a meeting, the NRC staff and other presenters send background materials and slides to the Commissioners. This advance information allows the Commissioners to come prepared to get their questions answered. Meanwhile about a half-dozen people in SECY are making sure of the details— arranging parking and pre-registration for external participants, getting relevant information posted on our public website, creating a seating chart for those who will brief the Commission.

As meeting day approaches, SECY ensures other logistics are in order. They make sure the room is set up properly, with name tags, microphones, and water pitchers placed on the conference table, chairs arranged, flags properly positioned. On meeting day, these preparations probably won’t be noticed by the 50-60 people who may come to the meeting and the untold number tuning into the webcast. (Incidentally, the room holds 155). The Chairman opens the meeting and turns the meeting over to the presenters. Following, the presentations, the Commissioners have an opportunity to ask questions.

Even after the meeting ends, SECY has more to do. All public Commission meetings are webcast, recorded and transcribed. The transcript must be validated and posted to the NRC website. The webcast is archived. And following most every meeting, SECY develops a memo to give the staff direction (we call this an SRM, or staff requirements memorandum), which must be approved by the Commission.

So you see, a lot of work goes into organizing the 5,000 or so Commission meetings we’ve held since the inception of the NRC almost 40 years ago – not just in my office. We hope you’ll tune in or attend a Commission meeting in the future. You can find the Commission’s meeting schedule here and a complete schedule of NRC public meetings here.

5 responses to “The NRC Commission Has Held 5,000 Meetings—Give or Take

  1. David Burg October 11, 2014 at 1:10 am

    As we know that NRC’s OIG auditor has observed over 10,000 secret meetings held by the NRC staff, all under the veil of SGI-information (Safeguards Information). This classification is unique to the NRC and which is used in addition to the Confidential classification used by the federal institutes.

    Now this is just not enough for the NRC to simply honor just information that is classified Confidential. An independent audit of the NRC should be conducted on timely basis as they are appearing to overuse their authority to withhold information from the general public. They think themselves to be CIA. It is noteworthy that nobody is stopping them form acting like thin. At this time, an independent audit is a must.

  2. dick0645 October 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I am so impressed by all the public meetings the Commission has held! That must mean that they are really living up to what they say about regulatory openness and transparency! Not mentioned is how many secret meetings they have held. More importantly is the fact that these meetings are well orchestrated in advance to make sure that meeting itself is just an exercise in rubber-stamping. The real nitty-gritty stuff is all worked out in advance. There is, like any open government meeting, really nothing controversial discussed and certainly no need for independent thought. Besides the real cloak and dagger stuff is handled by the NRC staff not the Commissioners. Even the NRC’s own OIG audit
    pointed that there were over 10,000 secret meetings held by the NRC staff, all under the cloak of SGI-information, i.e. Safeguards Information. This SGI classification is unique to the NRC and is used in addition to the Confidential classification used by all federal agencies. It is just not enough for the NRC to simply honor just information that is classified Confidential, they go much further. It is high time for an independent audit of the NRC for they are overusing and abusing their authority to withhold information from the public. They are acting like the CIA and being allowed to get by with it!

    • Moderator October 10, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Meetings are public between the NRC staff and licensees, certificate holders, potential applicants, and external stakeholders except in cases outlined in our policy on public meetings. You can find the staff’s schedule of these meetings—even those closed to the public—on our website .

      To clarify, safeguards information is a special category of sensitive unclassified information that must be protected. SGI concerns the physical protection of operating power reactors, spent fuel shipments, strategic special nuclear material, or other radioactive material. This category of information was mandated by Congress in the Atomic Energy Act to guard against the theft, diversion or sabotage of nuclear material that could harm public health or the common defense and security. For additional detail, see Information Security.

      • dick0645 October 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

        Thanks for the prompt informative reply. You brought up a number of 5000 in your discussion of the meetings held by the Commission as it was favorable for you to do so. How about some numbers so the public can better put this info in perspective. How many secret Commission meetings have been held over the same time period? How many Commission meetings have been at least partially closed to the public? How many closed and partially-closed meetings have been held between power plant licensees and NRC? How many times have meetings been closed to the public because they involved SGI?
        You say SGI is a special category of sensitive yet unclassified info that must be protected. If it is really sensitive and concerns the physical protection of operating power reactors why is it not classified confidential in the first place?! If SGI info cannot be classified as confidential then it seems to me the NRC is hiding stuff that other agencies would make available to the public. This is yet another example of inappropriate NRC secrecy. So much for talk from the NRC Commissioners about NRC openness and transparency?!

  3. adrossin October 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

    The stated purpose of these meetings and even the Sunshine Act is the Public’s Right to Know. Opportunities are provided for Comments. The right to know and to comment must not be interpreted as The Power to be Obeyed. Commissioners must make their decisions and submit them for NRC action. That is their duty. The public has no further input unless a new issue is raised for NRC action and new Public Comment Opportunitiy..

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