U.S. NRC Blog

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Five Questions with the NRC’s SECY

Annette Vietti-Cook is the NRC’s Secretary of the Commission

  1. How would you describe your job in three sentences or less?

5 questions_9with boxEvery day I work directly with the Commission offices managing the Commission’s decisionmaking process, and as the official record keeper, historian, and meeting coordinator. I oversee the planning of Commission meetings, drafting of Commission decisions, tracking of Commission requirements, and managing of Commission correspondence and records, and rulemaking and adjudicatory dockets. I also work with the agency’s historian.

  1. What is the single most important thing that you do at work?

Communicate effectively. My staff and I work closely and daily with the Commission and their staff as well as with the Executive Director for Operations staff. We provide advice on Commission policies and procedures, help to prepare items for Commission consideration, convey Commission decisions, and prepare for Commission meetings. As the Secretary, I must constructively address issues with the Commission and staff, acknowledge dissenting opinions and use good communication – and good judgement – in a way that ultimately benefits the agency’s performance of its mission.

  1. What is the single biggest challenge you face?

annettefinalTraining, developing, and mentoring employees so my office can provide outstanding support to the Commission. Commissioners come and go, so it’s important that the Office of the Secretary maintain the institutional knowledge of how the Commission does its work. The Internal Commission Procedures, which lay out how all manner of regulatory and policy issues are handled, are vitally important but can never tell the whole story. I’ve been with the agency for 34 years and Secretary for 17 years and many of my staff have similar long tenures. So we believe our institutional knowledge is a real asset.

  1. If you could change one thing at the NRC or within the nuclear industry, what would it be?

Eliminate the requirement that the NRC substantially recover the cost of its annual budget through the imposition of fees collected from NRC licensees. This structure creates the misimpression among some that NRC inappropriately considers fees in carrying out its important safety and security mission. By eliminating fees, the NRC would license and regulate independently through congressionally appropriated funds, just like most other federal agencies.

  1. What one thing about the NRC do you wish more people knew?

The NRC is full of competent, dedicated and hardworking people. There is also a squash court on the roof of the building. Yes, even regulators can have a sense of humor.

Five Questions is an occasional series in which we pose the same questions to different NRC staff members.

7 responses to “Five Questions with the NRC’s SECY

  1. charles wilhelm October 5, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Regarding question four, it is imperative that NRC remain an independent regulatory commission. Past historical experience would illustrate this point.

  2. stock October 4, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I would like to think that her desk should look cleaner than my desk

  3. Jack Coupal October 4, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Annette’s answer to no. 4 is important. Fees from the regulated paying for Commission’s operations are a little like the small-town sheriff telling deputies to find as many drivers deserving of moving violation citations (preferably to out-of-county and out-of-state drivers) and issue tickets carrying hefty cash fines with abandon.

    • stock October 4, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      It keeps the cost squarely where they should be, increasing the rates that nuclear must charge, and therefore driving them out of business because they can’t compete with other energy sources.

      • Engineer-Poet October 6, 2016 at 4:36 am

        I note that stock does not ask for the $220/ton social cost of the CO2 emissions of the required backups for “renewables” be charged to them.

        The minimum CO2 emissions of fossil-fired plants are about 330 gCO2/kWh, for combined-cycle gas plants.  The open-cycle gas turbines required as backups by PV and wind emit more like 500 gCO2/kWh.  These come to about 7.3¢/kWh and 11¢/kWh respectively.  If nuclear was guaranteed a floor price of even 6¢/kWh by carbon fees, it would be a no-brainer anywhere in the USA.

  4. devolpi October 4, 2016 at 11:27 am

    All that sounds great, but why does it take so long [measurable in year(s)] for regulatory petitions to be acted upon? Where’s the logjam? What’s being done to ease the delay?

    • Moderator October 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      The NRC’s process for reviewing petitions for rulemaking is described on this page: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/rulemaking/petition-rule.html . The agency typically dockets five to 10 new petitions every year and evaluates each one on its merits. The length of time to complete a petition may depend on the complexity of the issues, the priority of the issues in relation to other NRC rulemaking issues, and the availability of NRC resources. If the petition is accepted into an ongoing or new rulemaking action, additional time is required to develop a proposed rule, obtain public comment, and develop the final rule.

      In addition to petitions for rulemaking, a member of the public may submit a request for enforcement action, which is referred to as a “2.206” petition. Once a request is determined to be a 2.206 petition, NRC follows the process specified in Management Directive 8.11, “Review Process for 10 CFR 2.206 Petitions.” The NRC has a target goal of one year to accomplish the process steps. However, certain petitions can take longer, depending on their complexity.

      Scott Burnell

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