Improving Regulation at the NRC

Last month, President Obama issued Executive Order 13653, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.” While this executive order does not apply to independent regulatory agencies such as the NRC, you may be interested to learn that the NRC put in place many of these improvements long before the order was issued.

For instance, the order encourages agencies issuing proposed rules “to afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet” for “at least 60 days.” The NRC already offers opportunities to comment on proposed rules through e-mail and the website http://www.regulations.gov/. (All of NRC’s rulemaking dockets are accessible here.) The NRC usually gives the public 75 days to comment on proposed rules.

In addition, the order encourages agencies to consider the costs and benefits of regulatory actions. To the extent it is allowed under the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC does this for new or modified requirements for certain regulated facilities as part of its “backfitting” analyses. We consider whether the costs of modifying facilities to comply with new requirements are justified by a substantial increase in the protection of public health and safety or the common defense and security. We should point out that cost is not considered if we decide the modifications are absolutely necessary to keep the public safe and secure.

The order also says that agencies should adopt specific performance objectives, rather than specifying the actions that must be adopted. The NRC already does this through its performance-based regulations. In performance-based regulation, the agency sets the goal, but lets those regulated decide how to accomplish that goal.

The White House also issued a memorandum accompanying the order that directs agencies to “develop plans for making information concerning their regulatory compliance and enforcement activities accessible, downloadable, and searchable online.” The NRC already provides access to this kind of information through www.nrc.gov and our public ADAMS system. In fact, the NRC website provides the daily Status Report, Event Notifications, a Safety Performance Summary, inspection reports, enforcement actions, press releases, and public meeting information for each plant.

Recently, the NRC also created an Open Government website, which provides links to high-value data sets and other information that may be of interest to you.

Sean Croston
NRC Attorney

NRC’s Upcoming Regulatory Conference Expected to Draw 3,000 Attendees

Save the date RIC postcardThe NRC’s annual Regulatory Information Conference, known as the RIC, is coming up on March 8-10. This important conference is co-sponsored by the two NRC offices responsible for regulating nuclear reactors and overseeing research activities.

The conference provides a great opportunity for the NRC to discuss and share information on our regulatory, research and other activities in an informal environment. The RIC is the largest regulatory conference of its kind attracting participants from around the globe. This year we expect more than 3,000 attendees from as many as 30 countries.

This is our 23rd RIC and although some things are predictable, every conference is slightly different. This year we have 42 technical sessions and 29 technical poster and tabletop presentations that cover a wide range of topics related to operating reactors, new and advanced reactors, fuel cycle facilities, nuclear security, safety research, and safety culture.

Even at the NRC, not everyone realizes how early planning begins. More than 400 people are involved in making the RIC a success each year. Staff dedicated to the RIC start planning the next year’s conference the minute the last one ends. The NRC dedicates a lot of time and attention to this conference because it presents an invaluable opportunity to learn and share information and work together to ensure safe and secure regulation in the nuclear industry.

The conference is free and open to the public but you must register! Online registration is available on the RIC website until Feb 22. On-site registration will be available on March 7 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Registration Service Desk on the hotel’s lower level. The Registration Service Desk also opens on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 a.m. and Thursday at 7:30 a.m.

Following the RIC you can access copies of presentations, speaker and panelist biographies, audio recordings of the technical sessions, and video copies of the plenary sessions through the NRC website.

Christine Steger
Communications Analyst (Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation)
Amy Bonaccorso
Senior Communications Specialist (Office of Research)

Are We Writing in Plain English?

Plain Language logoDoes the NRC use too much jargon? Is it hard to figure out what some of our publications are trying to say? Those aren’t rhetorical questions; we really want to know—preferably with some specific examples.

Writing in plain English is a long-standing goal of the NRC. But we are currently renewing our efforts to communicate clearly in response to a new law passed by Congress. Since many of our regulatory functions are highly technical, there will always be some NRC documents that use a lot of technical and scientific terminology. Congress recognizes this and directs agencies to “focus on documents Americans are most likely to encounter” and write “in a way that meets the needs of the intended audience.”

So we will be making an extra effort to use plain writing in the documents most often read by the general public, such as:

• Performance Assessments (For both reactors and fuel cycle facilities)

• Inspection Reports

• Environmental Impact Statements

• Significant Enforcement Actions

• Meeting Notices

If you have specific suggestions for items that are hard to understand, or that need to be written more plainly, please let us know in the comments to this post.

Glenn Ellmers
Communication Specialist

Which NRC Data Would Be Most Valuable to You In Open Format?

Data.gov screen

For many years, the NRC has been recognized for proactively making large amounts of data and information available to the public through its website and the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS). But until recently, this data has been available primarily on HTML web pages or embedded within PDF documents.

As a result of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, the NRC, along with other federal agencies, has begun to make more of its data available in open formats that are machine readable. The use of open formats makes it easier for members of the public to access, use, and combine the data for their own purposes.

Until now, the NRC staff has selected datasets for publication based on institutional knowledge and other information such as the most popular pages on our website. As a result of these efforts, the agency has published more than 20 datasets that we believe are of high value to the public. You can see these datasets at our Open Government page and at data.gov.

Some of the datasets have generated a large number of downloads while others have not. You can get the download statistics on our Open Government page (click on NRC High-Value Data-Set Metrics). As you can see from the last column of this spreadsheet, the average monthly downloads currently range from 11 to 94, with the Nuclear Power Reactor Status Report scoring highest.

In the future, the NRC would like to publish datasets based on your input and interests.

With that in mind, our question to you is this: Which datasets would be most valuable to you? Publishing takes resources. By expressing your views, you can help the NRC direct those resources towards publishing the data-sets with the most value to the public. Please provide your answers in the comments section of this post. We look forward to getting your input!

Francine F. Goldberg
Co-chair, NRC Open Government Advisory Group

Welcome Message from the Chairman

NRC Chairman Gregory JaczkoWelcome to the new NRC Blog. We are excited about using this new communications tool and hope it will increase our collaboration and interaction with the public. The blog is intended to serve as a vehicle for informing, explaining and clarifying the actions, roles and responsibilities of the NRC, raising awareness about our agency and its mission, and – most importantly – giving us an opportunity to hear from you.

Staff from throughout the NRC will be posting regularly on the blog, addressing a variety of topics. Just to be clear, the blog is not replacing our usual modes of communicating with and getting feedback from the public. Instead, it is an additional way of communicating with you. We will continue to rely on public meetings, Federal Register notices and traditional media to convey official information.

We hope you will comment on our posts and on the comments of others. Please be sure to read the Blog Guidelines before doing so. Comments are moderated and we will review them and get them up as quickly as possible during regular business hours.

If you have questions, issues or concerns about nuclear safety or security, contracting with the NRC, or working at our agency, please use the links below to find more information:

Allegations: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/allegations/safety-concern.html.
Doing business with the NRC: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/contracting.html.
Job opportunities with the NRC: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/employment.html.

Welcome again to the new NRC Blog. We hope this is the beginning of a lively and engaging dialogue.

Gregory Jaczko
Chairman, NRC