U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

Moderating the Social Media Marketplace of Ideas

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

Blog button medWhen we launched this blog nearly five years ago, we thought it would be a great vehicle for informing the public of the NRC’s activities. We also expected that the comments feature might be a new channel for dialogue with our readers.

On the first goal, we believe, the blog is a resounding success. We have posted more than 600 posts on a whole range of subjects, which, we think, have provided additional insight and understanding into the NRC as a whole, as well as into the actions we take and decisions we make.

With the comment section, we’re not so sure. One recent commenter observed: It soon becomes obvious to the casual reader that a short list of the usual suspects come here for no other purpose than to disrupt the conveyance of information from the regulator to the public.

And it is true that a small number of people submit a substantial number of comments to our blog. It’s also true that they tend toward the critical. (Six individuals account for 40 percent of the most recent 1,000 comments.)

As we approach the blog’s fifth anniversary, we have considered various changes — including the possibility of closing the comment function (as many federal blogs do).

We were reluctant to do this because of the NRC’s commitment to openness and transparency. We here in the Office of Public Affairs, which administers this blog, are proud to deal daily and forthrightly with members of the media and public who call, email, or post comments asking questions about the NRC’s activities.

We also decided at this time not to change our comment guidelines. We already ask that submitters refrain from personal attacks – and while some comments may come close to that line – the vast majority of comments submitted are approved and posted.

In the end, we decided it is important for now to keep the platform open to all points of view – even those critical of us or with which we might disagree. We do continue to ask for civility, though. And we hope that an expanded number of blog readers will see fit to contribute to the comment dialogue.

We will continue to try to address direct questions posed in comment, and to occasionally point out factual errors in comments. We will continue to refrain, however, from weighing in on every comment discussion. We feel it more appropriate for the blog visitors to be given the opportunity to share their views civilly with us and each other.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on how to improve the blog.

18 responses to “Moderating the Social Media Marketplace of Ideas

  1. Garry Morgan December 21, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Your Blog is greatly appreciated; it allows for communications across a broad spectrum of individuals. Whether we may agree or disagree, we are all part of the “nuclear family.”

    Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season.

  2. Mike Mulligan December 17, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Well, you know me. I am always trying to figure why things are the way they are.

    NRC: “And it is true that a small number of people submit a substantial number of comments to our blog. It’s also true that they tend toward the critical. (Six individuals account for 40 percent of the most recent 1,000 comments.)”

    There goes the NRC again with them just giving us the selective facts again. These facts are indisputable. I’d like them to take a swing at explaining why such a limited group talks on this blog. . They do this all the time with disclosing the basic facts in the Inspection reports, never showing us the context why a problem in the industry shows up over and over again.

    If Trump went by the nuclear industry’s game plan, he’d just stand at the podium and never say a word. He’s say as little as he could get away with.

    It seems like some here with the “disruptive persons at the VY NRC meetings”, some are using this information to try and get the NRC to reduce public NRC participation across the board. Again, no context why a significant amount and an increasing amount of Vermonters were losing faith in the NRC and institutions in general. And the NY governor is showing tremendous mistrust and losing credibility of the NRC today.

    You get it, so the pro nuclear forces are basically withdrawing from making many comments on this NRC blog. They complain to the NRC that the comments are so one-sided. Then they are hoping the NRC changes the comment policy restricting the pro safety forces from overloading the blog with their comments. Basically the pro nuclear forces are artificially engineering the NRC blog comment policy. It’s basically the arsonist blaming the firefighter for starting a fire.

    Most of the people in the know realizes most of the nuclear employees are under legal restrictions and non-disclosures agreements. They will lose a lot of money and their careers if they get caught saying something that were under restrictions. Plus the general culture in the nuclear industry is so caustic, if an employee is caught saying something contrary to the herd, he would be severely ostracized.

    Remember the only currency the NRC has is their credibility. Once a regulator loses their credibility a plant shutdown is sure to follow.

    Thanks,

    Mike Mulligan
    Hinsdale NH

    • Public Pit Bull December 18, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Well said Mike. Glad to see you use E-P’s blog bullhorn. The pen is mightier than the censorship sword as least as long as we have our freedoms.

    • Engineer-Poet December 19, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      I’d like them to take a swing at explaining why such a limited group talks on this blog.

      Because it’s hard to get past the racket of professional activists shrieking out their radiophobia and conspiracy theories.  Rebutting the nonsense they write is pointless when moderators delay it for days, and possibly just delete it.

      I seldom visit this blog, because it’s two steps outside my usual rounds.  Occasionally I have spare time to follow interesting-looking blogroll links.

      I was shocked when my comment in this thread came in first.  That has never happened before.  Were the pros sleeping off the spiked punch after a big party or something?

      It seems like some here with the “disruptive persons at the VY NRC meetings”, some are using this information to try and get the NRC to reduce public NRC participation across the board.

      And maybe some are trying to get the noxious substances, physical intimidation and hecklers out so that more are heard than just the most lawless anti-nuclear activists.  The people and groups who’ve done that should be subject to restraining orders limiting them to written comment only and barring them from coming within 1000 feet of hearings or conspiring with others to do so.

      the pro nuclear forces are basically withdrawing from making many comments on this NRC blog.

      There is no point in refuting an outright falsehood for the tenth or hundredth time.  It contributes nothing; it builds nothing, when the USA and the world has a desperate need for an always-on, 100%-emission-free energy infrastructure that is only about 10% built.  The treatment for ignorance is education, the treatment for paranoia is psychotropics, and the treatment for a professional fossil-financed activist class is public disclosure requirements.

      Those disclosure requirements are badly needed.  Why is e.g. Andrew Cuomo trying to save the Fitzgerald nuclear plant running where electric prices are low, but kill the Indian Point plant operating where supplies (especially natural gas) are constrained and prices are high?  Killing Indian Point would raise NYC electric rates considerably and create energy crunches under conditions like the recent polar vortex.  The average New Yorker gets nothing from this.  So who would benefit enough to push the guv’nor to make it happen?  At whose expense would this come?

      they are hoping the NRC changes the comment policy restricting the pro safety forces from overloading the blog with their comments.

      Bah.  You have the gall to call yourself “pro-safety” when there are exactly ZERO fatalities from radiation released by commercial nuclear-electric plants in the USA, even in plant workers.  You cannot get safer than zero.  Meanwhile, people die in ones and twos in car-train accidents from coal, a handful at a time in natural gas explosions, and a steady drizzle of deaths from air pollution amounting to more than the total of traffic accidents and all homicides every year.  Most of this would have been stopped decades ago had it not been for “no nukes!” propaganda.  Nuclear power was on track to replace coal in electric generation (90% of all coal consumption in the USA); it was anti-nuclear activism which saved the world for Peabody and Northern Pacific.

      Basically the pro nuclear forces are artificially engineering the NRC blog comment policy.

      If anything, the blanket permission given to off-topic and often outright false posts here, even when the assertions are refuted outright by documents elsewhere on the NRC site, is artificial.  Bad discussion drives out good, and giving equal time to carefully-researched comments with citations and raving loonies means handing the forum to the latter.

      I think that’s what you’re afraid of.  If your opposition is citing details from NRC regulations and findings, and you’re citing Helen Caldicott, you don’t have any standing to be taken seriously any more.  Only if the forum can be dominated by raw emotion and sheer volume do you have a chance.  That’s mob rule.

      Most of the people in the know realizes most of the nuclear employees are under legal restrictions and non-disclosures agreements. They will lose a lot of money and their careers if they get caught saying something that were under restrictions.

      Which doesn’t do a thing to stop anonymous whistleblowers, and can you REALLY say that there aren’t dozens of outlets that would fall all over themselves to be first to publish such bombshells?  Please; what you say defies human nature.

      Remember the only currency the NRC has is their credibility. Once a regulator loses their credibility a plant shutdown is sure to follow.

      Currency?  The NRC has legal authority granted by Congress.  Public credibility has nothing to do with it.

      • Garry Morgan December 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm

        Not true, there have been accidents resulting in death from civilian nuclear power.The emissions from nuclear power may be as deadly as the noxious emissions from coal, fossil fuels or ______ :). Nuclear power waste and the fuel process from nuclear power does not equal an emissions free power generation source. Death from U.S. nuclear facilities and the nuclear fuel process.http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/weeklystats.htm The DOL stats do not include all the sickness and death stats as much was classified prior to 2001, and the figures do not include ALL current claims as they are not disclosed due to protections as a result of the 1996 HIPAA Law which protects specific disclosures. Current exposures are disclosed in NRC event report documents but the final disposition is not disclosed nor reported

        Note: Some verbiage removed by the Moderator to adhere to blog comment guidelines.

      • Engineer-Poet December 24, 2015 at 3:45 pm

        there have been accidents resulting in death from civilian nuclear power.

        Name ONE that came from radiation*.  The US civilian nuclear power plants have had ONE nuclear meltdown with ZERO radiation fatalities, or even injuries.  Japan has had the Fukushima flooding with THREE meltdowns, THREE minor injuries and ZERO fatalities.

        Civilian nuclear power is the safest energy source on earth.  All the over-regulation of the NRC does is keep more dangerous sources in business.

        Death from U.S. nuclear facilities and the nuclear fuel process.http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/weeklystats.htm

        Those Dept. of Labor stats have NOTHING to do with the nuclear industry; for one thing, the totals are several times the employment at all US plants put together.  Most likely they are largely due to chemical exposures (e.g. benzene and the like from petroleum), lifestyle issues and random things in life.

        Note: Some verbiage removed by the Moderator to adhere to blog comment guidelines.

        Given how innocuous some of the things are which trigger the moderators, I wonder just what witticism I missed.  I suspect something to do with unicorns or other ungulates.

        * There was a 2013 accident in Arkansas with 1 fatality, but an alternator stator dropping off a crane has nothing to do with the reactor and would not get more than local news coverage if it happened at any other type of plant.

        Moderator Note: Some verbiage removed that was a personal attack on a previous commenter and thus not allowed under the blog comment guidelines.

  3. Troy Martel December 16, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Looking forward to a Happier New Year!

  4. Public Pit Bull December 16, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    I guess you feel NRC that not all of the “1,753 amazing people” who follow your blog are really all that amazing. Those frequent “usual suspects” must be a real thorn in your side. I am not sure I was one of your top six suspects but I have made a number of comments and the vast majority I admit are critical.
    I appreciate the fact that you have posted all my comments with only a rare edit to conform to your post guidelines. You say “many federal agencies” have closed the comment section of their blogs. How tragic & sad is that! I always thought that federal agencies were part of our government and that as such they would always welcome feedback…good, bad or even ugly. How naïve I am! I am glad that at least “for now” the NRC has not done the same.
    I am not an expert on what makes for a successful blog site but I did find a couple of suggestions on the net that you may want to consider:
    • “My preference is to see a comment section that shows that the community is composed of people who think and are thoughtful.”
    • “Do you really want a blog that has 29 different versions of ‘great post’ added to the 33 different ways that others said “thank you for writing this?”
    • “People want to feel like they’re part of something and that what they have to say is smart and well-regarded. When they take the time to comment on your blog, they want to know you’re reading and considering what they have to say, even if you don’t agree.”
    • “But the real magic happens when people begin commenting to one another and the blog takes on a life of its own.”
    • “As the blogger, your responsibilities are to pose one side of a debate and open the conversation.”

  5. Genuine Enthusiast December 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    NRC’s Blog post is a great tool, makes it a very simple channel to voice public opinion and to post free-lance comments, without having to go through formal routes (such as 2.206, petitioning etc.) Don’t even think about closing it down!!! As with everything in life, there will always be some weird back and forth exchanges among shallow witted people. The Blog is not meant for their consumption, it stands for a very noble purpose – to make a lucid, simple statement of facts of what the agency does to a layman like me. And if in the opinion of the agency some are derogatory or is below par, you may have to move it out while mentioning it. Message will get around, don’t worry. You are doing an excellent job, take my word! Leave keeping civility to those folks, and if they don’t, “shame on them.”

  6. CaptD December 16, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Salute to the NRC PAD for choosing the high road (allowing comments) instead of the low road (filtering comments or much worse N☢ road, (no comments at all).

    As one of those that does comment often, I’d like to assure those that always cry foul when comments that are not gushingly Pro-Nuclear are posted, that the NRC does have problems, just like other subsets of the US Government and where better for those to be posted than on the NRC Blog? I have enjoyed being able to communicate with employees at the NRC that I would never have had the opportunity to do so and hope they feel the same way, especially about getting comments and/or suggestions that they can then consider.

    I for one would like to see the moderation of blog comments sped up since that would allow actual discussions instead of what we have now which is very slow communications, since the current wait times are at least a few hours if not far longer, especially on week ends.

    By being responsive to all those that do post comments, the NRC will become better, since they will have yet another vehicle to gain valuable feedback in a timely manner.

  7. drgenenelson December 16, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    At times, the opposition to nuclear power has economic undertones. That should also be an exclusion criterion for blog responses. Please review this 05 January 2010 blog entry by Rod Adams, “Smoking Gun Part 18 – An Oldie But a Goodie – Oil Heat Institute of Long Island (OHILI) Ad Using Scare Tactics to Fight Shoreham” http://atomicinsights.com/smoking-gun-part-18-an-oldie-but-a-goodie-oil-heat-institute-of-long-island-ad-using-scare-tactics-to-fight-shoreham/

    There would be a loss of substantial power generation revenues to OHILI members if Shoreham became operational. Per the 11 October 1981 New York Times article by reporter John T. McQuiston, “Heating Oil supply and Prices ‘Stable'” http://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/11/nyregion/heating-oil-supply-and-prices-stable.html ….June Bruce, a spokesman for LILCO, said the utility planned to replace 30 percent of the oil with nuclear power when its Shoreham nuclear facility went on line fully in 1983.
    She said that since electricity to heat homes would be produced primarily in the off-peak hours, most of the energy would be coming from the Shoreham plant….. Please see the New York Times article for additional relevant details.

  8. Engineer-Poet December 16, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Of “the usual suspects”, most of them are working from a common script of memes with stock catch-words and phrases.  A great many of these things are outright falsehoods.  Those words and catch-phrases should be used as cause for moderators to delete the comments rather than publishing them.

    Failing to do this has turned what could have been a medium for expanded information exchange into a playground for anti-nuclear hacks—people whose notion of “success” would ultimately eliminate the NRC, as well as 63% of the carbon-free generation on the US grid.

    As a substitute, the NRC could keep a list or a Wiki of these words and phrases, with well-cited explanations for why they are misleading or outright wrong.  It should not be necessary to refute a given bit of nonsense more than once, nor should the NRC leave this essential function to volunteers.

    • Public Pit Bull December 16, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.
      Henry Louis Gates

      • Engineer-Poet December 17, 2015 at 1:12 pm

        Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.

        What “art” would that be, trolling?  This forum should be about facts, meaning truth.  Some advances may be artful, but art itself has no place here.  Neither does the hysterical emoting which passes for discussion with some people.

        Henry Louis Gates

        Ah, the [individual] who made a federal case out of being asked for his ID when a neighbor reported him forcing his way into a dwelling.  An anti-icon, so to speak.  How appropriate.

        Comment edited by moderator to meet NRC blog comment guidelines.

    • Half-TruthSlayer December 17, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      EP, what part of “free speech” do you not understand?!

      • Engineer-Poet December 17, 2015 at 10:13 pm

        This is a moderated forum where comments are published or not, with or without edits, at the whim of the NRC operators.  Specifically, this forum is sponsored by the NRC and is at least allegedly devoted to the NRC’s goals (whatever they are).  I’d like to see a tighter focus on those goals.

        If you want freedom of speech, bullhorns are cheap.

      • Moderator December 21, 2015 at 9:56 am

        Very few comments are not published as most, perhaps with some words removed, adhere to the blog comment guidelines. Further, comments are reviewed and posted several times a day. On occasion, a comment might be delayed in posting if the comment is being reviewed for an allegation. Comments are not reviewed during non-working hours.

        Moderator

      • Garry Morgan December 21, 2015 at 11:49 am

        There is no “free speech,” however there is responsible speech, which has been paid for by the blood, suffering and efforts of the few in our military and public servants for the many.

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