Moderating the Social Media Marketplace of Ideas

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

Blog button medWhen we launched this blog nearly five years ago, we thought it would be a great vehicle for informing the public of the NRC’s activities. We also expected that the comments feature might be a new channel for dialogue with our readers.

On the first goal, we believe, the blog is a resounding success. We have posted more than 600 posts on a whole range of subjects, which, we think, have provided additional insight and understanding into the NRC as a whole, as well as into the actions we take and decisions we make.

With the comment section, we’re not so sure. One recent commenter observed: It soon becomes obvious to the casual reader that a short list of the usual suspects come here for no other purpose than to disrupt the conveyance of information from the regulator to the public.

And it is true that a small number of people submit a substantial number of comments to our blog. It’s also true that they tend toward the critical. (Six individuals account for 40 percent of the most recent 1,000 comments.)

As we approach the blog’s fifth anniversary, we have considered various changes — including the possibility of closing the comment function (as many federal blogs do).

We were reluctant to do this because of the NRC’s commitment to openness and transparency. We here in the Office of Public Affairs, which administers this blog, are proud to deal daily and forthrightly with members of the media and public who call, email, or post comments asking questions about the NRC’s activities.

We also decided at this time not to change our comment guidelines. We already ask that submitters refrain from personal attacks – and while some comments may come close to that line – the vast majority of comments submitted are approved and posted.

In the end, we decided it is important for now to keep the platform open to all points of view – even those critical of us or with which we might disagree. We do continue to ask for civility, though. And we hope that an expanded number of blog readers will see fit to contribute to the comment dialogue.

We will continue to try to address direct questions posed in comment, and to occasionally point out factual errors in comments. We will continue to refrain, however, from weighing in on every comment discussion. We feel it more appropriate for the blog visitors to be given the opportunity to share their views civilly with us and each other.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on how to improve the blog.

Indian Point 3 Timely Renewal

Diane Screnci
Sr. Public Affairs Officer
Region I

It’s been more than eight years since Entergy filed an application requesting that the NRC renew the operating licenses for Indian Point Units 2 and 3. And, a final decision is still a ways off.

indianpointUnder NRC regulations, if a company submits a sufficient application for a renewed license at least five years before the expiration of the current license, then the request is considered “timely” and the facility is allowed to continue operating under its current license until the NRC issues a decision on the license renewal request.

On December 13th, Indian Point 3 will enter the period of “timely renewal.”  Entergy submitted a license renewal application for both Indian Point Units in April 2007, meeting the timeliness provision. The Unit 3 license would have expired December 12, 2015. This doesn’t mean the unit will be operating without a license. Rather Unit 3, like Unit 2 (which entered timely renewal in September 2013), will continue to operate under its existing license.

The Atomic Energy Act specifies that operating licenses can be issued for up to 40 years and allows license renewals in 20 year increments. Thus far, the NRC has issued renewed licenses to 81 reactors. Typically, it takes about 22 months for the staff to reach a decision on whether to renew a license – longer if there’s a hearing. In the case of Indian Point, though, the process has taken longer than projected, due in part to the large number of contentions the parties have raised in the hearing.

Although a final decision on the application hasn’t been reached, the NRC staff has measures in place to provide assurance the facility will continue to operate safely during this time period.  We’ll continue to carry out our extensive regulatory and oversight activities. NRC inspectors, including the three on-site Resident Inspectors and specialist inspectors from the Regional office, will continue their duties during this period, providing independent oversight of the facility on a continual basis.

In a September 28 letter to the NRC, Entergy confirmed that the Unit 3 license renewal commitments required to be in place prior to entry into the period of extended operation were complete. In October, Entergy certified that the Indian Point 3 Updated Final Safety analysis report had been updated to incorporate aging management programs for the unit. In response, that same month, we completed an inspection to review the activities Entergy has taken to prepare for operating in timely renewal and found that the processes and commitments had been properly implemented.

While it might be some time before the Commission reaches a final decision on license renewal at Indian Point, our independent oversight of the facility will continue uninterrupted while in “timely renewal.”