Our New, Improved Petition for Rulemaking Process

Jennifer Borges
Regulations Specialist

A Typical PETITION for Rulemaking Process graphic_ICONS_vert_r12finalAfter several years of work, the NRC has issued a final rule that amends the process we follow whenever someone asks the agency to issue new rules or change existing ones. We call this our petition for rulemaking (PRM) process, and it is described in sections 2.802 and 2.803 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The final rule became effective Nov. 6.

As we said in our previous blog, “You Can Ask the NRC to Change Its Rules” (May 2014), the revisions expand a petitioner’s access to the NRC by allowing consultation with our staff both before and after filing a petition for rulemaking. The revisions also restructure and clarify the content requirements for a petition for rulemaking; clarify our evaluation criteria; explain our internal process for receiving, closing, and resolving a petition; and update information for tracking the status of petitions and subsequent rulemaking actions.

So that you can better understand how to submit a petition, the NRC staff has updated the rulemaking petition process website and posted a new backgrounder that explains the PRM process in plain language.

Anyone needing help with the process may contact the NRC. The NRC staff can describe the process for filing, docketing, tracking, closing, amending, withdrawing and resolving petitions for rulemaking. The staff also can provide status information. Our Petition for Rulemaking Docket website also has status information on all petitions for rulemaking dating back to 1999. The petitions are organized by the year they were docketed. You can visit this website to check on issues that may interest you.

Incidentally, when we “docket” a petition, it means the petition and all related documents will be put in an electronic file for the public to read. We docket only the petitions that include the required information, raise an issue that warrants further consideration and ask for a change that is within the NRC’s legal authority. After the petition is docketed the NRC begins to evaluate the issues the petitioner raises to determine if they should be considered in rulemaking.

The NRC currently has 20 petitions under review. In 2015 so far we have docketed six PRMs. Three address whether to change the basis for our radiation protection standards. The others deal with whether “important to safety” needs to be better defined; whether the NRC should require temperature monitoring devices in the core of nuclear power reactors; and whether to make certain optional risk-informed regulations more widely available.

If we are taking comments on a petition, there will be a “comment now” button that takes you to a Web form you can use to communicate with us. You can even receive an alert when something is added to the docket. To subscribe, click on the docket link, then click “sign up for email alerts” on the right-hand side.

We were recognized last year for our work in educating the public about how to submit a petition. A November 2014 report to the Administrative Conference of the United States applauds the NRC for regularly communicating with petitioners and reporting on the status of petitions. We hope you agree and find our new rule makes our process even better.

 

You Can Ask the NRC to Change Its Rules

Jennifer Borges
Regulations Specialist
 

One of the ways the public can take part in NRC actions involves asking the agency to issue new rules or change existing ones. The NRC’s website describes this “petition for rulemaking” process in detail, including how to submit a petition and what information the NRC needs in order to consider the request.

publicopinionnewAt its most basic, a petition needs to explain the issue and why the petitioner believes action is needed. The petition should include whatever supporting information is available. One example of a successful petition involved revising NRC requirements for emergency planning at nuclear power plants. The petition led to a new rule that allows state and local governments to include stockpiles of potassium iodide for possible use in the event of an emergency at a nuclear power plant.

Starting the process can be as simple as consulting with the NRC before filing a petition. We’ll provide information about the process, our regulations, and what we understand about the issues you intend to raise. If a petition falls short of the legal requirements, we’ll explain how to meet our criteria. The petitioner then has the chance to send us more information.

When petitions meet the requirements, we enter them in our review process and announce our review in the Federal Register. If public comment can play a role in resolving the petition, the Federal Register notice explains how the public can provide their views.

The NRC staff then evaluates the petition and any public comments to decide whether to start our rulemaking process. We stay in contact with the petitioner with periodic updates on the status of the staff’s work on the petition.

If we deny a petition we announce the decision in the Federal Register and explain our reasons. We also respond to any public comments on the petition.

If we accept a petition for consideration in our rulemaking process, the Federal Register notice explains how we intend to move forward. We also describe how the public can keep track of the NRC’s actions on the petition. If the NRC issues a proposed or final rule related to the petition, our Federal Register notice on the rule will explain how we have addressed the petition’s concerns.

We’re currently updating our rulemaking petition process with a proposed rule we issued on May 3, 2013 (78 FR 25886). The revisions would:

  • Expand a petitioner’s access to the NRC by allowing consultation with our staff both before and after filing a petition for rulemaking;
  • Improve the content requirements for a petition for rulemaking;
  • Clarify our evaluation criteria;
  • Explain our internal process for receiving, closing and resolving a petition; and
  • Update information for tracking the status of petitions and subsequent rulemaking actions.

 

The NRC’s other petition process allows anyone to ask the agency to take an enforcement action against a nuclear power plant or other NRC licensee. We discussed these processes on the blog in 2011.