Spreading the Sunshine!

Stu Reiter
Co-Chair Open Government Advisory Group

Given the terrible winter much of the U.S. has been experiencing, you may be excited to learn that next week is “Sunshine Week.” But before you break out the beach towels, you should know that the week actually celebrates the public’s right to know its government’s business. In fact, this year marks the initiative’s 10th anniversary.

sunshineSunshine Week was launched by the American Society of News Editors in March 2005. This non-partisan, non-profit initiative is celebrated in mid-March each year to coincide with James Madison’s birthday on March 16.

We thought it an excellent time to highlight the NRC’s actions to be open and transparent about its business. The NRC has a long history of commitment to openness and transparency and encouraging stakeholder and public engagement. Most recently, we’ve used Web streaming and conferencing technologies to enhance public participation in our public meetings, regardless of stakeholder location. And our web-based systems make it easier to share public meeting information before and after, and for the public to provide feedback on these meetings.

And, we have embraced President Obama’s Open Government efforts to make the federal government even more open and accountable and to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government.

In January, 2009 the President instructed OMB to issue an Open Government Directive. To comply with the directive, each agency was required to develop and publish an Open Government Plan (updated every two years) describing how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities. NRC’s most recent plan can be found here. Examples of commitments highlighted in our plan include:

  • Reducing the average FOIA request processing time and backlog.
  • Enhancing availability and delivery of official agency information throughout the public Website.
  • Making it easier for mobile users to find/access regulatory information.
  • Continued use of Social Media to share information with the public – launching Facebook.
  • Promoting the objective of clear communications, the use of plain language.
  • Increasing the transparency of our rulemaking activities.

President Obama then went further, and in September 2010, he challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. Now, some 60 nations participate, affecting more than 2 billion people around the world.

As an organization, the NRC is dedicated to continuous improvement. We will continue to focus on what is important to our stakeholders and public — FOIA responsiveness, maintaining our public Web site as the agency’s central information portal and providing a mobile‑friendly Web site, growing our social media programs and modernizing our records management program.

Author: Moderator

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

8 thoughts on “Spreading the Sunshine!”

  1. “…we have embraced President Obama’s Open Government efforts to make the federal government even more open and accountable and to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government.” Great job guys! Thanks!

  2. Your plan is very ambitious but will it really be a reality? Transparency isn’t what the government is known for, no matter how each president touts that.

  3. You’ll allow us some hesitance in believing the “transparency” in government thing. I guess time will tell if the FOIA requests go through quicker, etc. Actions speak louder than blog posts.

  4. I would love to see the NRC PC Book, CaptD. Would you know how I can gain access to it? Though it is probably classified safeguards information like most of the stuff at the NRC.

  5. Great comment, Salute…
    BTW: You might enjoy looking at the telephone book sized glossary that the NRC uses…


    Why no mention of 03/11/11 being The 4th Anniversary of Fukushima ☢ Polluting the Earth?

    The NRC is now doing what other MSM is doing, filtering the sunshine and calling it a bright sunny day!

    I’m not surprised that on especially this day the NRC Blog chooses to run a story on “how much sunshine they generate”…

  7. Oh, heck. We ALL know James Madison would be the first one screaming, “60 years and NO nuclear waste system in place? WTF are y’all trying to do, kill us all? Tell those yoohoo industrialist to wait until we get it together!”

    No, seriously, happy Sunshine Week, we started early here in Cali! Loving the warm beautiful weather here, come visit!! I’ll show you a place here where nuclear material would be sooooo much safer than on our earthquake faults on our California coasts. Screw Yucca Mountain, we need that material off the ocean before we are SUPER #FuqaFukushimied! #WereRadioactive and we are probably not supposed to be!

  8. Wow, great minds think along the same lines. I just posted the following about clear language on the NRC Open Forum site…

    The PC Virus has Infected the NRC
    You would think that a regulatory agency with the critical mission of protecting the public would be the last place where politically-correct (PC) lingo would manifest itself. Yet, sad to say, the PC Virus has even infected the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Plain language has never been a strong suit at the NRC but things have gotten progressively worse. Examples…
    • A violation is called a finding.
    • A near-miss accident is called a precursor event.
    • A green color is used to categorize nuclear plant performance even though federal violations are involved.
    What is driving this trend toward techno-speak at the NRC? Perhaps there are just more paralysis-by-analysis folks employed there and more techno-speak just naturally follows? But the more likely reason, I think, is that the NRC likes watering down the wording so it sounds less alarming. Then the NRC can open up more stuff to public scrutiny. The public won’t understand what the stuff really is, but the info is out there, right?! And the bonus is that it will sound a lot better than it actually is. Reminds me of what smashing-the-earth supporters now call “fracking”, you know the process to bleed more natural gas from our planet. They now prefer to use the term “well stimulation”. And the NRC can claim that it is following the President’s call for regulatory transparency and openness, even though the POTUS does not believe that applies to him, his WH, or his self-appointed czars. Strange that our President would do this in spite of the fact he signed into law a couple of years back the so-called Plain Language Law. It just might take the NRC a lot longer to comply than other federal agencies as they have already been badly infected with the PC Virus.
    Finally, I am afraid the NRC is just a step away from adopting these PC terms…
    • Propose strongly instead of demand
    • Non-traditional success instead of failure
    • Alternate answer instead of incorrect
    • Unjust self-esteem reducer instead of criticism
    The PC Virus will be terminal if the NRC follows the White House lead and calls terrorists, misguided criminals.
    Kidding aside I think the NRC has to ensure that this is not behind their lack of clear language and communication. It is a quote by George Orwell…
    “The greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

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