Acting Public Affairs Officer
Nuclear regulation is the public’s business. For that reason, the NRC considers public participation in its activities to be a cornerstone of strong, fair regulation of the nuclear industry. Yet many people are surprised to hear they can watch the Commission deliberate nuclear safety and security issues in person and see government in action.
And others, who may be aware, are not sure how that works.
To help the public understand what they can expect to see at Commission meetings, the agency recently released an updated brochure: A Guide to Open Commission Meetings.
The guide covers many aspects of the 50 or so public Commission meetings that take place each year at the NRC’s headquarters in Rockville, Md.
During these meetings, NRC staff and invited panelists brief the Commissioners on various topics of interest to the agency, stakeholders, and members of the public. The Commissioners question the presenters, often taking advocacy or opposition roles to stimulate conversation, and talk with one another as they consider the issues before them. To be clear, though, voting does not take place at these meetings.
To find out about upcoming meetings, you can check the schedule for the next six weeks on the NRC’s website or in the Federal Register.
If you are unable to attend in person, most open Commission meetings can be viewed live through the NRC website. Videos and transcripts of these meetings are also archived for later viewing.
While most Commission meetings are public, there are a few exceptions, which are specified in the Sunshine Act. The NRC generally will close meetings when the Commission discusses matters such as security or confidential legal, personnel, personal or proprietary information.
There are also “rules of the road” for attending Commission meetings. Not surprisingly, any actions that disrupt the meeting are not acceptable. The public is permitted to bring in small signs, but cannot wave them around during the meeting. Eating, drinking, or smoking are also not allowed in the Commission Hearing Room. For more details, check out the brochure.
We hope to see you at an upcoming Commission meeting.
4 thoughts on “Your Opportunity to Observe the Commission in Action”
March 14, 2016
Submitting a complaint as an outsider is often viewed as equivalent to ratting on the company to a federal investigator and is often viewed as disloyalty.
In the organizations that I have worked in, any utterance accessible to an outsider that could be seen as criticism of the organization has been considered to be disloyalty. People’s intuition tells them that disloyalty is an infraction of the organizational culture. (Fast brain)
Then they look around for a policy or other official edict that backs up their intuition. (Slow brain)
This is so engrained in the culture that it isn’t seen unless it is specifically brought up. (The fish doesn’t see the water.) This applies in organizations as diverse as the FBI, the nuclear industry, and international religious organizations.
This is a chilling effect that is hard to come to grips with.
One could make a case that dysfunctional loyalty was a factor in most, if not all, recent organizational fiascos.
This could include Flint Water Contamination, Fukushima, Macondo, SONGS, Crystal River, ANO, Ft. Calhoun, DVA, the ACA Rollout, VW Dieselgate, child sexual abuse scandals, and the GM Ignition Switch fiasco.
Dysfunctional loyalty is a mortal threat to transparency and self-assessment.
One of the reasons that Senator Joseph McCarthy was so repugnant could have been that there is a little dysfunctional loyalty in every righteous heart.
Watch for how dysfunctional loyalty plays out in the 2016 Presidential Election run-up.
More important than the Commission meetings are the more technical public meetings where the NRC and nuclear industry discuss the current unresolved problems. Find topics and schedule here:http://meetings.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg
This is how I learned that the spent fuel dry storage canisters are subject to short-term cracking and could leak in as little as 16 years after a crack starts. No one knows when a crack will start, but a two-year old Diablo Canyon canister was found to have all the conditions for cracking.
The NRC and nuclear industry have no current solution for this. The canisters cannot be inspected or repaired and there is no early warning system prior to a radiation release. Learn more at SanOnofreSafety.org, including video of Holtec canister vendor stating that even if you could find a crack and attempt to repair it, in the face of millions of curies of radiation being released into the environment, it’s not feasible to repair without introducing another condition for cracking.
Providing open meetings is one thing but actually giving equal weight to what is presented by BOTH industry and independent parties is quite another. IMO, the NRC has reduced its responsiveness to the public since Chairman Allison Macfarlane left and is now doing little more than making it easier for the Nuclear Industry to avoid disclosing anything about their operations, even when it has to do with safety.
The NRC Electrical Engineers’ Single Phase Fault 2.206 Petition mentioned above, the white paper providing the NRC staff’s assessment of the appropriateness of 10 CFR 50.59 for substantial modification to licensee facilities and the failure of the NRC to provide the root cause of the San Onofre RSG failures are three recent examples of how the NRC has let the public down, while at the same time covering for itself and those it “regulates.”
It would be interesting to hear the commissioners address
NRC Electrical Engineers’ Single Phase Fault 2.206 Petition
This episode may well begin to unravel the deep-seated dysfunction at the NRC. There seems to be a shortfall in competence, integrity, compliance, and transparency.
It is so engrained that the insiders do not even see it. “It’s what’s for dinner.”
It reminds me of the ways NRC handled the Peach Bottom Sleepy Hollow Slumber Party for Security Officers, the Davis-Besse Inspection Deferral, the Callaway Shutdown on Xenon, the Oconee-Jocassee Dam Vulnerability, the AIM Pipeline Non-existing Safety Analysis, and other issues raised out of the usual routes. (Which other ones pop to mind?)
Instead of using concerned individuals’ lack of expertise in the Byzantine Briar Patch to block the addressing of concerns, the NRC should have an Office of Dissenters Resources that helps concerned individuals through the briar patch.
There is a sad lack of leadership that is willing to stop the circle-the-wagons stiff-arming meetings and say, “What’s the right thing to do?”
Who know what could be achieved if the NRC put as much effort into solving safety problems as they put into proving that they are not problems?
The archive of official emails, meeting minutes, and memoranda should tell much of the story.
Who can get the collection of records released?
What has been the leadership involvement of senior staff, ACRS, and the commissioners?
Is there anyone willing to step up to the plate and keep this fiasco from being even more of an embarrassment?
The petition stated (in part):
“At Byron, a failure to design the electric power system’s protection scheme to sense the loss of a single phase between the transmission network and’ the onsite power distribution system resulted in unbalanced voltage, at both engineered safety features. (ESF) buses (degraded offsite power system), trip of several safety-related pieces of equipment and the unavailability of
the onsite electric power system.”
Some of the unanswered questions are:
What are the conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in this design failure?
What are the conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in this issue not being surfaced at the pre-license stage?
What are the conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in this issue not being resolved through the station corrective action program after it was first discovered?
Since the petition indicates that the probabilistic risk analysis (PRA) was grossly optimistic, what are the conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in the grossly optimistic PRA?
What are the other unanswered questions?
What can be done about it:
Individuals may contact their senators/ representatives to recommend Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of potential NRC internal noncompliance, bullying, fraud, waste, and mismanagement related to this episode.
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