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.