Your Opportunity to Observe the Commission in Action

Eric Stahl
Acting Public Affairs Officer

Nuclear regulation is the public’s business. For that reason, the NRC considers public participation in its activities to be a cornerstone of strong, fair regulation of the nuclear industry. Yet many people are surprised to hear they can watch the Commission deliberate nuclear safety and security issues in person and see government in action.

And others, who may be aware, are not sure how that works.

To help the public understand what they can expect to see at Commission meetings, the agency recently released an updated brochure: A Guide to OCover Graphic_Guide to Open Commission Meetingspen Commission Meetings.

The guide covers many aspects of the 50 or so public Commission meetings that take place each year at the NRC’s headquarters in Rockville, Md.

During these meetings, NRC staff and invited panelists brief the Commissioners on various topics of interest to the agency, stakeholders, and members of the public. The Commissioners question the presenters, often taking advocacy or opposition roles to stimulate conversation, and talk with one another as they consider the issues before them. To be clear, though, voting does not take place at these meetings.

To find out about upcoming meetings, you can check the schedule for the next six weeks on the NRC’s website or in the Federal Register.

If you are unable to attend in person, most open Commission meetings can be viewed live through the NRC website. Videos and transcripts of these meetings are also archived for later viewing.

While most Commission meetings are public, there are a few exceptions, which are specified in the Sunshine Act. The NRC generally will close meetings when the Commission discusses matters such as security or confidential legal, personnel, personal or proprietary information.

There are also “rules of the road” for attending Commission meetings. Not surprisingly, any actions that disrupt the meeting are not acceptable. The public is permitted to bring in small signs, but cannot wave them around during the meeting. Eating, drinking, or smoking are also not allowed in the Commission Hearing Room. For more details, check out the brochure.

We hope to see you at an upcoming Commission meeting.

 

The NRC Commission Has Held 5,000 Meetings—Give or Take

Annette Vietti-Cook
Secretary of the Commission

 

After one of our commissioners noted a milestone in July – the 5,000th meeting of the NRC’s Commission – we thought it might be useful to share what the Secretary of the Commission does behind-the-scenes in planning Commission meetings. There is much more planning than you might think.

The NRC Commissioners conduct a public meeting. Annette Vietti-Cook is on the left.
The NRC Commissioners conduct a public meeting. Annette Vietti-Cook is on the left.

First some background. The “Commission,” in NRC-speak, means the presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Commissioners acting together. At full-strength there are five Commissioners. The Commission sets policy for the NRC, develops regulations on nuclear reactor and nuclear materials safety, issues orders to licensees and adjudicates legal matters.

The federal Sunshine Act requires that any time the Commissioners meet to conduct agency business, the meeting must be public. Exceptions to this requirement are made when the Commission discusses matters such as security or confidential legal, personnel, personal or proprietary information. Our regulations lay out how we will meet the Sunshine Act requirements.

Public Commission meetings are held at NRC headquarters in the Commissioners’ Conference Room, with planning starting months in advance. This is where the staff members in the NRC’s Office of the Secretary (we call it SECY) come into play.

To prepare for the meeting, SECY works with NRC staff to plan agendas for proposed public meetings, including lists of potential internal and external contributors, which are intended to provide the Commission with a range of perspectives.

In the weeks ahead of a meeting, the NRC staff and other presenters send background materials and slides to the Commissioners. This advance information allows the Commissioners to come prepared to get their questions answered. Meanwhile about a half-dozen people in SECY are making sure of the details— arranging parking and pre-registration for external participants, getting relevant information posted on our public website, creating a seating chart for those who will brief the Commission.

As meeting day approaches, SECY ensures other logistics are in order. They make sure the room is set up properly, with name tags, microphones, and water pitchers placed on the conference table, chairs arranged, flags properly positioned. On meeting day, these preparations probably won’t be noticed by the 50-60 people who may come to the meeting and the untold number tuning into the webcast. (Incidentally, the room holds 155). The Chairman opens the meeting and turns the meeting over to the presenters. Following, the presentations, the Commissioners have an opportunity to ask questions.

Even after the meeting ends, SECY has more to do. All public Commission meetings are webcast, recorded and transcribed. The transcript must be validated and posted to the NRC website. The webcast is archived. And following most every meeting, SECY develops a memo to give the staff direction (we call this an SRM, or staff requirements memorandum), which must be approved by the Commission.

So you see, a lot of work goes into organizing the 5,000 or so Commission meetings we’ve held since the inception of the NRC almost 40 years ago – not just in my office. We hope you’ll tune in or attend a Commission meeting in the future. You can find the Commission’s meeting schedule here and a complete schedule of NRC public meetings here.