Improving Public Meetings with New Facilitators and Policy Statement

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

It’s been a while since I first addressed the topic of NRC facilitators in a blog post; however we recently brought a new group of facilitators into the NRC’s In-House Meeting Facilitator & Advisor Program and I thought the occasion was worth mentioning.

The NRC's latest public meeting facilitators area ready to step into their new roles
The NRC’s latest public meeting facilitators are ready to step into their new roles.

The purpose of the program is to help make meetings and outreach more effective, inclusive and fair, and to increase NRC’s capacity to collaborate and solve problems with both internal and external stakeholders.

Program facilitators are NRC staff who assist in planning, preparing for and conducting meetings. They help with meetings as a collateral duty (in other words, in addition to their primary jobs). When asked why they would add to their workload by joining this program, facilitators said they’re looking for new challenges and to expand their skill set. But more importantly, they said they’re looking for new ways to help the NRC accomplish its mission.

The new facilitators, the fourth group of staff to enter the program, or “Gen4,” forged ties while completing four days of training. The training was intensive and, as you would expect, featured many opportunities for participants to test out their collaboration skills in a safe environment. Next step is for them to work with experienced facilitators for additional on-the-job training on their way to becoming “fully credentialed” members of the NRC’s Facilitator Corps.

While on the subject of public meetings, let me update you on the status of the Commission Policy Statement on Public Meetings. As I mentioned in my September 19, 2016, blog post, the NRC has drafted a new Commission policy statement on public meetings and sought public comment to make sure it hits the mark. The new policy statement is meant to re-affirm the importance of public participation in NRC’s public meetings and address a number of concerns noted previously by the public and NRC staff.

publicopinionnewI’ve seen some of the comments and there are some great ideas being provided. The policy statement is meant to be “50,000 feet” kind of guidance, so not all the ideas provided in the comments will be reflected in the final version of the policy statement, but the majority of them will certainly be incorporated into some level of NRC guidance, such as the next revision to NRC Management Directive 3.5, “Attendance at NRC Staff-Sponsored Meetings.”

Stay tuned for more information on the status of the policy statement. And look for our new facilitators at the next public meeting you attend.

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.