Public Affairs Specialist
March 14, 15 and 16 boast some interesting historical events. Albert Einstein was born, the first internet domain name was registered and the first issue of the Federal Register was published. These dates will be noteworthy in 2017, as well, as this is when the NRC’s 29th Annual Regulatory Information Conference will be held in Rockville, Md.
Each year, this conference – also just known as “the RIC” — brings together regulators, industry officials and interested members of the public. The RIC provides an opportunity to exchange information, engage in meaningful dialogue and hear diverse perspectives about nuclear reactor and materials safety and security and issues being addressed through NRC-sponsored research.
Attendees can attend plenary and technical presentations, network at poster and tabletop sessions during breaks, attend lunchtime workshops and sign up to take a tour of the NRC Operations Center – or tune into the RIC’s digital channels.
While this annual event has evolved into a large public meeting now attracting about 3,000 attendees and participants from all over the world, that wasn’t always the case.
In its inaugural year in 1989, the RIC had only about 500 attendees mostly from industry, and the focus of the conference was primarily on reactor regulation. The nuclear industry in the mid-1980s was faced with implementing many of the post-Three Mile Island regulatory changes in a heightened, and tightened oversight environment. This made for a challenging relationship between the industry and its regulator. The RIC was envisioned as a forum for non-confrontational communications.
In that first year, conference presentations were given only by NRC staff, and while feedback seemed to indicate an appreciation for hearing from the people making the day-to-day decisions, the NRC saw an opportunity to improve the RIC by talking less and listening more. Starting in 1990, industry representatives were invited to participate in discussion panels, still a key feature of the conference today.
And since participants expressed interest in policy issues as well as regulatory matters, the NRC Chairman and Commissioners were featured more prominently. In the post 9/11 environment, and in light of events like Hurricane Katrina, the RIC expanded to include perspectives from state and local officials who are part of emergency preparedness and incident response for the plants in their communities.
Recognizing the importance of all perspectives, even those critical of the nuclear industry and its regulator — groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists — have also joined some RIC panels.
Interest in the RIC extends beyond a national audience. International representation has increased with attendees from more than two dozen countries. The RIC is an opportunity for sharing different perspectives on emerging safety and security issues facing the domestic and international nuclear community.
Public accessibility to the RIC has greatly increased over the years. Making use of technology, the NRC reaches out beyond the walls of the conference rooms. The NRC uses its website and social media platforms to share RIC information by web streaming Commission plenary and some of the breakout sessions and posting presentations and posters on the NRC website.
The agency tweets relevant conference information from a dedicated RIC Twitter account. Images and information from the RIC are posted on the NRC’s Flickr and Facebook pages. And the agency live tweets from the Commissioner plenaries and several of the technical sessions using its primary Twitter account. A link to the RIC’s mobile friendly website will be activated at a later date making it easier to access information from hand-held devices.
The RIC is free and only requires attendees to register. Registration can be done online beginning in January 2017 or in person during the conference.
Learn more about the history of the NRC’s biggest public conference in a video posted on the agency’s YouTube channel Moments in NRC History: Regulatory Information Conference – 25 years.