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.

 

Spreading the Sunshine!

Stu Reiter
Co-Chair Open Government Advisory Group

Given the terrible winter much of the U.S. has been experiencing, you may be excited to learn that next week is “Sunshine Week.” But before you break out the beach towels, you should know that the week actually celebrates the public’s right to know its government’s business. In fact, this year marks the initiative’s 10th anniversary.

sunshineSunshine Week was launched by the American Society of News Editors in March 2005. This non-partisan, non-profit initiative is celebrated in mid-March each year to coincide with James Madison’s birthday on March 16.

We thought it an excellent time to highlight the NRC’s actions to be open and transparent about its business. The NRC has a long history of commitment to openness and transparency and encouraging stakeholder and public engagement. Most recently, we’ve used Web streaming and conferencing technologies to enhance public participation in our public meetings, regardless of stakeholder location. And our web-based systems make it easier to share public meeting information before and after, and for the public to provide feedback on these meetings.

And, we have embraced President Obama’s Open Government efforts to make the federal government even more open and accountable and to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government.

In January, 2009 the President instructed OMB to issue an Open Government Directive. To comply with the directive, each agency was required to develop and publish an Open Government Plan (updated every two years) describing how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities. NRC’s most recent plan can be found here. Examples of commitments highlighted in our plan include:

  • Reducing the average FOIA request processing time and backlog.
  • Enhancing availability and delivery of official agency information throughout the public Website.
  • Making it easier for mobile users to find/access regulatory information.
  • Continued use of Social Media to share information with the public – launching Facebook.
  • Promoting the objective of clear communications, the use of plain language.
  • Increasing the transparency of our rulemaking activities.

President Obama then went further, and in September 2010, he challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. Now, some 60 nations participate, affecting more than 2 billion people around the world.

As an organization, the NRC is dedicated to continuous improvement. We will continue to focus on what is important to our stakeholders and public — FOIA responsiveness, maintaining our public Web site as the agency’s central information portal and providing a mobile‑friendly Web site, growing our social media programs and modernizing our records management program.

Agency Posts Second Addendum to 2010 Open Government Plan

Stu Reiter
Co-Chair Open Government Advisory Group
 

The NRC posted the second addendum to its Open Government plan today. The 2014 – 2015 addendum re-caps activities we’ve done so far and outlines activities we’re planning through 2015. The addendum includes such topics as our use of Web streaming and conferencing technologies to increase opportunities for public participation in meetings and our new Web-based-system to share public meeting information and provide us feedback.

 opengov_headerThe first Open Government plan was published in April 2010. The 2010 plan was written in response to President Obama’s January 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the subsequent guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget. The guidance required each agency’s plan to be updated every two years. In April 2012, our first addendum to our 2010 Open Government plan was published.

What else does the second addendum include? Among the topics:

  • Our continued use of social media to promote a sense of common community, provide a unique venue for dialogue, and enhance the use of plain language in explanations of NRC activities.
  • Improving access to documents open for public comment by redesigning our “Documents for Comment” Web pages to provide a one‑stop location for all rulemakings and other documents open for comment.
  • Improving the timeliness of access to information by strengthening our Freedom of Information Act program. (Our efforts here have been recognized as “Best Practices” in a Center for Effective Government report.)

The 2014 – 2015 addendum also describes our programs to further collaborate with our state and tribal government and international regulatory partners.

We hope you will take this opportunity to review the plan.

It’s That Time Again – Open Government Plan Revision Time

Stu Reiter
Co-Chair Open Government Advisory Group
 

NRC Open GovYou probably hoped we were talking about Spring – long awaited for those of us on the East Coast – but in truth, we’re talking about the every-two-year review of the agency’s Open Government plan.

We published our first plan on April 7, 2010, and then issued a revision on June 7, 2010, to reflect your feedback. In April 2012, we updated our plan again – although our effort to get your feedback wasn’t what we’d describe as a resounding success.

On June 1, 2014, we will re-publish our plan. Among other things, we will note accomplishments over the past two years and plans over the next two years, including:

• Focusing on improving the process of handling Freedom of Information Act requests;

• Embracing the President’s Digital Government Strategy and, among other initiatives, deploying a mobile-based public meeting feedback option;

• Continuing to grow our social media program with increased subscriber and viewer rates – at times nearly doubling previous years’ statistics;

• Continuing to enhance our collaboration with state and tribal governments through a range of outreach efforts;

• Continuing to enhance our collaboration with the international community, with increased focus on sharing information after the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident;

• Improving the public’s ability to participate in the NRC’s regulatory processes by creating a one-stop web location for rulemaking actions and other documents open for comment;

• Modernizing the management of our records to make information capture and categorization more complete and transparent; and

• Enhancing stakeholder involvement in public meetings using technologies such as web streaming and conferencing

NRC Open GovAs we finalize our plan, we invite your thoughts on how we can further improve our openness program and its focus on transparency, participation and collaboration.

While comments are welcome at any time, comments must be received by April 4, 2014, to be considered specifically for the June update. Please submit your thoughts as comments to this post or via our Online Comment Form. We very much look forward to hearing from you!

NRC Public Meetings – Deciphering the Categories

A public meeting about the San Onofre nuclear power plant draws a large crowd.
A public meeting about the San Onofre nuclear power plant draws a large crowd.
Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist
 

One of my jobs at the NRC is managing the agency’s Meeting Facilitation and Advisor Program. This means, I train employees to facilitate public meetings and recommend ways to make public meetings as meaningful as possible. One of the challenges I face is explaining – both to those inside and outside the agency – what the three meeting categories mean. The answer? Simply this: the category of the meeting is a reflection of the purpose of the meeting.Category 1 meetings, for example, are between the NRC and one other party – typically a licensee of the NRC, a vendor, or an applicant or potential applicant for a license. The NRC has these types of meetings in a public forum to provide transparency even though the purpose is to have a one-on-one discussion. The public can observe the meeting and has the opportunity to ask questions of the NRC after the business portion of the meeting, but doesn’t participate in the discussion itself.

Category 2 meetings are between the NRC and a number of individuals representing groups such as licensees, vendors, other federal agencies, or non-governmental organizations. Like Category 1 meetings, the NRC holds these meetings in a public forum. The purpose of the meeting is for the NRC to conduct a discussion with the designated group. The public can observe the meeting and ask questions of the NRC after the business portion of the meeting, but again, doesn’t participate in the discussion itself.

A common type of Category 2 meeting is a roundtable meeting where the NRC invites representatives of the broad spectrum of interests affected by an issue to engage in discussion with each other and the NRC, with the public in an observing role.

Category 3 meetings are fully engaged discussions between the NRC and the public (as well as stakeholders that might include other government agencies, the industry and others). Public participation is actively sought at this type of meeting, which has the widest participation opportunities and is specifically tailored for the public to comment or ask questions.

Category 3 meetings are also known as Town Hall meetings. We might hold such a meeting to inform the public about a particular issue, respond to questions or receive comments from attendees. These meetings might be preceded by other information opportunities, such as a poster session or open house.

We do our best to conduct public meetings that not only accomplish a particular purpose, but also allow the public to observe and participate. The meeting category just gives an indication of what kind of meeting you can expect.

Additional Information on our public meeting policies can be found on our web site.