Five Questions with Rick Hasselberg

Rick Hasselberg is a Senior Emergency Response Coordinator with the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response.

  1. How would you briefly describe your role at the NRC?

5 questions_9with boxI manage the NRC’s Reactor Safety Team. If an emergency occurs at a nuclear power plant, my team is responsible for assessing nuclear facility conditions, predicting future conditions, and recommending actions the NRC might take to help protect public health and safety. I am responsible for recruiting, training, and continuously challenging the expertise and response readiness of one of the most respected emergency response organizations in the world.  What could be better than that?

  1. What is your foremost responsibility at work?

I think about emergencies. While 99 percent of the people working at the NRC are working hard to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place, I work under the assumption that any of those safety measures could possible fail and that it’s time to get busy.  (The more I think about the things that might happen, the less surprised I will be if they do.

  1. What is your most significant challenge in the workplace?

rickh_fixedI struggle with competing demand for the agency’s best and brightest employees.  I must ensure that NRC will able to maintain a pool of experienced, qualified response team members who can be pulled away from their regular duties to train, exercise and, if ever needed, to respond to an actual emergency event.

  1. What do you consider one of your most notable accomplishments at the NRC?

I joined the NRC in late 1979, in the months following the Three Mile Island Accident. During that period, the NRC was under considerable pressure to improve both its internal training programs and its external public information (outreach) programs. I contributed significantly to both programs, introducing multimedia production techniques (film, video, and 35mm slides) for improving internal technical training, and I created and presented a highly acclaimed, day-long Nuclear Power and Radiation seminar that NRC presented to news media representatives throughout the United States. I was credited with helping to re-establish NRC credibility with the news media.

  1. What is one quality of the NRC that more people should know?

This agency has a lot of very smart, very talented people who really care about their role in serving the nation. I’m very proud to serve with them.

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



Author: Moderator

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

15 thoughts on “Five Questions with Rick Hasselberg”

  1. Let me try to clarify your statement:
    1) There is no chance for a nuclear accident in the USA
    2) Even if there were an accident, just do nothing, because evacuating can have hardships.

    The number of “close calls” in USA is approaching double digits per year. At Pilgrim last year they were down to their LAST STEP of defense in depth after a series of failures on the other safety. If that last hail Mary had not worked, there would have been a huge radiation release on Boston.

    In Japan the incidence of childhood thyroid cancer is 550 times higher than normal. And no that is not due to increased inspection. They did not issue the KI pills to avoid panic.

    Some verbiage removed to comply with blog comment guidelines

  2. Once this man retires, I hope the NRC will simply eliminate this position entirely, or replace it with something that might actually improve the performance and reliability of the nuclear power industry. Nothing personal. I am sure he is a fine fellow and all, but there is simply no need to think about an emergency evacuation in response to a NPP incident. We have decades of history now, spanning this man’s entire career, and not once has his job been relevant. There has been no “emergency” whatever that means, and if there ever were, the appropriate response would be to do nothing. It’s quite clear that the source term will be largely harmless, while an evacuation really puts live at risk.

    This position shows how wildly over-regulated the U.S. nuclear power industry really is. There is no such position for fossil fuels: you simply let people die and everyone just accepts this. There is no such position in the wind power business. When a wind turbine blade lands near a school, you just shrug your shoulders because it’s wind power and wind power is clean and pure, regardless of any actual history or experience.

  3. So, in other words, youre doing your job. What about your moral obligations if you are so sure your responsibilities end there? Here, on Cape Cod, playland of some MEMA officials who have boats and airplanes for their evacuation, over 400,000 residents and tourists have no evacuation plan. We have 2 bridges, both clogged on summer days, virtually an island, within 28 miles from the constantly degraded Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. No thoughts about us……if safety is your big job?

  4. Great answers Mod, somehow I still don’t have the warm and fuzzies that proper protective actions will be taken, and that our leaders will err on the “lets not cry wolf” side rather than the overly cautious side. But thanks for the legitimate forum.

  5. In response to your other questions:

    There are strict penalties for improper reporting of emergencies. The enforcement action that will be taken is based upon the significance of the violation. For example, a failure to notify the appropriate state and local officials (and the NRC) of an Unusual Event (the lowest emergency classification) is less significant than a failure to notify during a General Emergency (the highest classification). Civil penalties may be assessed in the more significant cases, especially if the NRC finds the licensee’s actions were willful.

    No, NRC licensees are required to have their own radiation monitoring capabilities. Licensees are also required to make emergency declarations and protective action recommendations to state and local officials based on the radiological conditions onsite. State and local governments also maintain their own radiological assessment capabilities. The EPA’s RADNET sensors are not typically positioned in close proximity to a NRC-licensed facility. In short, EPA’s RadNet System is not used for emergency response decision-making or protective action decision-making during an emergency at an NRC licensed facility.

    Rick Hasselberg

    The final question is out of Rick’s area of responsibility. Per the NRC’s Office of Enforcement: We can’t speak for the EPA. However, at the NRC, we have a very strong program supporting safety culture and an open collaborative work environment where all employees are encouraged to raise issues without fear of reprisal.

    Also, for more information about evacuations and federal responsibility, we encourage you to read the Congressional Research Service’s Federal Evacuation Policy report of 2011. It is found here:

    In summary, the report says: In general, federal policy defers to the states to enact laws pertinent to evacuation.3 Using authority from state laws and local ordinances, state and local officials may suggest or require the evacuation of residents from homes and communities before certain catastrophes occur.4 Rather than taking the lead in evacuations, the federal government facilitates the evacuation process through federal statutes that authorize agency heads to use federal resources to assist in the evacuation of civilians.


  6. OK appreciate your other anticipated responses. It doesn’t seem realistic that local/state authorities could make the critical call, especially under emergency conditions. They would be scared that they were crying wolf, and that “maybe it wasn’t that bad”. Even if pregnant women were “taking husky doses” like at TMI.

    I had no idea it was like this. Experts must have the authority to make the call, they could be State experts fed with information from NRC and whatever “speedi” program you have.


  7. We’ll work on getting answers to your questions, but we can say upfront that the NRC has no authority to order evacuations. Any decision regarding evacuations (or other protective measures) is solely the responsibility of the local/state authorities.


  8. Rick, do you have the clear written authority to order an evacuation of a populated area?

    If not, is there a clear process, and a team that votes on an evacuation decision, who is this team?

    What penalties are there for nuclear operators who do not promptly report a release or even worse, try to cover it up completely?

    Does the 80% shutdown of the EPA radiation monitoring system (purportedly because it was hard to transmit data via cell phone) affect your ability to assess releases and take appropriate shelter in place, or evacuation orders?

    Does the recent revelation of the silencing and firing of the head researcher at the EPA on low dose radiation, who informed congress on information that exceeded what the administration wanted, have a chilling effect on information flow / whistle blowing at the NRC?


  9. Hmmmm, I was kinda ok until that last question, then I wondered … oh, I forgot. That answer bothered me, though. Because it really doesn’t seem like anyone at the NRC thinks about our nation-state vis-a-vis nuclear power at all. At meetings and in their words and conversations, that’s not the priority. It seems it’s business and nuclear power for the country, benefiting the nation state in income and dirtyish nrg (from this old plants) rather than the wholistic need to really REALLY maintain a nontoxic reality for the humans, animals and plants needing a nuclear-toxic-free world to grow and thrive in — actually and truly.
    I guess, I just don’t see any depth that views from the NRC that makes me feel like the nuclear industry safety is really treated wholistic enough for a sustainable industry at this point. Sorry, yet, from my suburban housewife, novice, stupid citizen view, that’s what I see and have experienced. The NRC needs to get hardcore tougher on that industry if their gonna get it going right enough to continue.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: