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Category Archives: General

Have a Safe and Happy Thankgiving

Time to Mark Your Calendars for the NRC’s Biggest Conference

Stephanie West
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.

save-the-date-for-web_smEach 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.

ricblogIn 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.

Five Questions With: Andrea Veil

Andrea Veil is the Executive Director for the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards

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

5 questions_9with boxI serve as the liaison between the ACRS and the NRC staff at all levels and the NRC Commissioners. I also manage the technical and administrative staff who support the ACRS as it meets its obligation to provide the Commission with independent and timely technical advice. By the way, the ACRS full committee just held its 638th meeting last week.

  1. What is your foremost responsibility at work?

Ensuring that the ACRS members have everything that they need to provide effective and timely technical advice to the NRC Commission. That means researching issues, getting answers to questions, pulling together legal and regulatory documents, talking to stakeholders, reviewing reports and all other kinds of support actions. The independence of ACRS is truly unique among government agencies. The ACRS provides independent advice to the Commission on issues related to nuclear reactors safety and security, and nuclear waste and materials, so facilitating the technical reviews and meetings required to fulfill the ACRS mission is of utmost importance.

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

andreaThe challenge to continue adapt to agency-wide changes that may affect the ACRS workload and independent function.

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

I would say one of my biggest job successes is becoming the first female Executive Director of the ACRS since its beginning in 1954.

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

The NRC is a regulatory authority and does not have promotion of nuclear energy as part of its mission. Our stance is if there is to be nuclear power in this country, it will be done safely. We don’t advocate for or against nuclear power, nor do we have any say in the energy generation mix in this country (that’s Department of Energy). In addition, over regulation by the NRC is sometimes cited as the reason for the permanent closure of a plant. The decision by a utility to permanently close a plant is a business/economic decision by that licensee.

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

Five Questions With Tom Rich

Tom Rich is head of the agency’s Information Security Directorate

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

5 questions_9with boxMy job is to work with others to protect NRC’s information and information systems. This includes providing security training, performing security assessments, testing the vulnerability of our IT systems to phishing and penetration attacks, responding to security incidents and keeping up with situational awareness to see where we may need to strengthen our defenses.

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

Communication with NRC managers and employees regarding threats to our IT systems and data. We do security briefings, security awareness events for staff, and daily meetings with the Chief Information Officer.

  1. What is the single biggest challenge you face?

tomrichThe dynamic pace of technology changes and the need for cyber defenders to keep up. With the “Internet of Things” becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, the devices we now use in virtually everything we do present security and privacy concerns and introduce a much larger avenue of attack. These devices want to communicate, in some cases sensitive data, through multiple channels with each other and cloud services. The challenge is that these devices do not have adequate security controls built into their design.

  1. What would you consider one of your biggest successes on the job?

We established a cyber security dashboard that measures the NRC’s improvements in security practices. This is an internal mechanism to let NRC stakeholders see what they are doing well and where improvements are needed. Since implementation, we have seen significant improvement in cybersecurity across the agency.

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

That we have Resident Inspectors at each of the nuclear plants. I think a lot of the public believe we regulate and inspect from a distance. I do not believe many know we have feet on the ground at the nuclear plants.

Five Questions With is an occasional series where we pose the same five questions to NRC staff.

ncsam-web_edited-1For more information on National Cyber Security Awareness Month, go here.

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