Improving Public Meetings with New Facilitators and Policy Statement

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

It’s been a while since I first addressed the topic of NRC facilitators in a blog post; however we recently brought a new group of facilitators into the NRC’s In-House Meeting Facilitator & Advisor Program and I thought the occasion was worth mentioning.

The NRC's latest public meeting facilitators area ready to step into their new roles
The NRC’s latest public meeting facilitators are ready to step into their new roles.

The purpose of the program is to help make meetings and outreach more effective, inclusive and fair, and to increase NRC’s capacity to collaborate and solve problems with both internal and external stakeholders.

Program facilitators are NRC staff who assist in planning, preparing for and conducting meetings. They help with meetings as a collateral duty (in other words, in addition to their primary jobs). When asked why they would add to their workload by joining this program, facilitators said they’re looking for new challenges and to expand their skill set. But more importantly, they said they’re looking for new ways to help the NRC accomplish its mission.

The new facilitators, the fourth group of staff to enter the program, or “Gen4,” forged ties while completing four days of training. The training was intensive and, as you would expect, featured many opportunities for participants to test out their collaboration skills in a safe environment. Next step is for them to work with experienced facilitators for additional on-the-job training on their way to becoming “fully credentialed” members of the NRC’s Facilitator Corps.

While on the subject of public meetings, let me update you on the status of the Commission Policy Statement on Public Meetings. As I mentioned in my September 19, 2016, blog post, the NRC has drafted a new Commission policy statement on public meetings and sought public comment to make sure it hits the mark. The new policy statement is meant to re-affirm the importance of public participation in NRC’s public meetings and address a number of concerns noted previously by the public and NRC staff.

publicopinionnewI’ve seen some of the comments and there are some great ideas being provided. The policy statement is meant to be “50,000 feet” kind of guidance, so not all the ideas provided in the comments will be reflected in the final version of the policy statement, but the majority of them will certainly be incorporated into some level of NRC guidance, such as the next revision to NRC Management Directive 3.5, “Attendance at NRC Staff-Sponsored Meetings.”

Stay tuned for more information on the status of the policy statement. And look for our new facilitators at the next public meeting you attend.

Back to Basics – Seeking Comment on a New Commission Public Meeting Policy

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

We are always looking to make our public meetings better. To that end, we’ve drafted a new Commission policy statement on public meetings and are seeking public comment to make sure it hits the mark. The new policy statement is meant to re-affirm the importance of public participation in NRC’s public meetings and address a number of concerns noted previously by the public and NRC staff.

audienceFirst, some background. The NRC has had a formal policy regarding open meetings since 1978; the most recent revision was issued in 2002. The NRC assembled a task group on Enhancing NRC Public Meetings in June 2014. The task group recommended steps be taken to:

  • improve consistency of public meetings across the agency;
  • encourage increased management support for public interaction; and
  • seek out creative ways to effectively engage the public and promote participation.

In response to the task group’s report, the staff has begun implementing several enhancements to the existing public meeting process, including drafting the new policy statement.

The most significant proposed change to the policy statement is a revised meeting category system based on the level of public participation. The current categories of NRC public meetings are labeled 1, 2, and 3. Public participation levels for Category 1 and 2 meetings are essentially the same. However, public participation for a Category 3 meeting can range from the NRC simply engaging in dialogue with members of the public to receiving comments from the public (and responding later).

This has sometimes led to confusion over what to expect from a public meeting. The revised categorization system removes the 1, 2, and 3 labels and incorporates a clear description of the level of public participation planned for the meeting:

  • Observation Meeting
  • Information Meeting With Q&A
  • Commenting-Gathering Meeting

We hope these revised categories will help you prepare for and participate in NRC public meetings and will make more clear what you can expect. The table below compares the current categories to the proposed new categories. blog-capture_small

The NRC will be hosting a public meeting via webinar on September 29, 2016, to provide information and answer questions to help those interested in submitting comments. Formal comments, though, won’t be accepted during the meeting. To provide your comments on the draft statement, go here. Comments will be accepted until November 14, 2016.

Enhancing NRC Public Meetings

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

pubmeetingIPThe NRC holds a lot of public meetings – more than 1,000 a year. Sometimes we seem to hit the mark with stakeholders. Sometimes not so much. In any event, we are always looking to make our meetings better. I recently co-chaired a group of NRC staff members who were tasked with providing the agency’s Executive Director for Operations (EDO) with a list of recommendations to make our public meetings better.

We took a comprehensive look at the NRC’s public meeting policies, processes, and guidance, including their implementation, and made recommendations to improve those aspects of our work. The group provided its report to the EDO earlier this year (ML15029A456).

Who was part of the group? The group’s members included representatives of the two offices that conduct by far the most NRC public meetings (the offices of Nuclear Reactor Regulation and New Reactors); members from all four NRC regions, including a public affairs officer; and many others. The task group members brought to the table extensive public meeting experience.

The task group considered additional public input provided through sources such as:

  • Years’ worth of feedback received through the NRC’s Public Meeting Feedback Form;
  • The results of extensive public outreach- and meeting-related interviews and surveys involving the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station; and
  • Input received during previous public meetings addressing public involvement.

This information was instrumental in the task group’s work and informed decisions the group made.

Now that the report is done, what are the next steps? NRC staff members are currently creating and revising our policies and guidance, including our policy statement on public meetings. Our intent is to engage the public by sharing draft products for comment and holding a public meeting once some of the improvements recommended by the task group have been made.

We hope that you will participate in those activities and continue to provide your input through the Public Meeting Feedback Form (fill out a hard copy at a meeting or provide your input electronically by clicking on “meeting feedback form” for meetings on the public meeting schedule) as well as through discussions with NRC staff. Our goal is to provide the public with useful information on our activities and to conduct business in an open manner, while at the same time ensuring that we can carry out our mission.

As the agency takes action on the recommendations, we’ll update you via the blog on proposed improvements, progress we’re making, and how the public can be involved with initiatives.





A Focus on NRC Annual Assessment Meetings

Prema Chandrathil
Public Affairs Officer
Region III

formal meetingIt’s Spring – and annual assessment meetings are popping up all over. The NRC holds these important meetings every year for every nuclear power plant to provide information about how the plant performed in the previous year.

What happens at these meetings? If you attend, you can expect to hear about NRC inspection activities, how the plant performed from a safety perspective, and how it met NRC requirements, including if there were any violations and, if so, what actions were taken to correct those issues. You would also hear directly from NRC resident inspectors, who are at the plant on a daily basis and know the plant inside and out. They and other specialists inspect the plant to help ensure protection of the public health and safety.

We just posted a short YouTube Video on the subject today. “Three Minutes with an NRC Expert on the Annual Assessment Meetings” can be found here.
community outreachAs the video underscores, annual assessment meetings are not all the same. There are different types, including a formal meeting, an open house and community outreach event. The most common meeting is a formal meeting where the public is invited to observe the interactions between the NRC and plant staff. Open houses are informal and are designed to encourage one-on-one conversations. An example of a community outreach event is where the NRC would staff a booth at a local event in an effort to talk to more folks. The type of meeting will vary depending on the plant’s performance, community feedback and local interest.

No matter the format of the meeting, the public will have an opportunity to not only hear about the plant’s performance and NRC inspection efforts but also ask questions, make comments and talk to the NRC staff.

A common misconception is that these meetings are transcribed — they are not. The basis for the NRC’s discussion is the annual assessment letters issued by the NRC to individual plants. These letters are documented and publically available. You can find them on the NRC website.

3 minutes with AA_1The NRC continues to reach out in an effort to inform people about what the agency does, how we regulate and how a particular plant is doing in meeting NRC rules and regulations. We are committed to protecting public health and safety, and strive to be open and responsive in these annual assessment meetings.

If you are interested in any upcoming public meeting you can check out the public meeting schedule and review the meeting notice as well as the press release.

We hope you’ll check out the video to learn more.

NRC Meetings “Go Viral”

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

Well, not viral, actually. But beginning this month, there is a new way to hear about our upcoming public meetings. By signing up for our new public meeting Twitter feed, you will get tweets whenever we schedule a public meeting, as well as if we cancel or change meeting details.

The tweets will go out the same time a meeting notice is posted or changed and will include a link to a webpage that has details about the meeting. You can sign up to receive NRC’s public meeting tweets by registering for twitter or logging into your Twitter account. In the search field type NRCgov_PMNS. The NRC’s public meeting account will be listed and then simply click the “Follow” button underneath.

publicopinionSpeaking of public meetings, for years, NRC has handed out a Public Meeting Feedback Form at all our public meetings. We wanted to know your opinion about what went well, as well as any suggestions you had about how we could make our meetings better.

But, also beginning in December, you’ll notice a new and improved feedback system. We’ll still have the old hard copy form. You can still use that and hand it off to an NRC representative or drop it in the mail. But now you’ll be able to give feedback directly through your smartphone or your computer.

Each form will have a Quick Response (QR) code. By using any of the free QR code reader apps that are available, you can scan the code and go directly to our feedback page right through your phone. You can then fill out the online form, which only takes a few minutes. You can also provide feedback through a computer by going to our Public Meeting Schedule and pressing the “Meeting Feedback Form” link for the specific meeting, or pressing the “[…more]” link for a specific meeting and then pressing the “Meeting Feedback Form” link on the “Meeting Details” page.

Last NRC fiscal year (October 2012 – September 2013), we received only 76 comment forms. We held over 1,000 public meetings during that time. We do read every card and consider every comment. We also analyze the responses we receive each year to look for trends. In some cases, past comments have affected where NRC holds public meetings and how the meetings are conducted.

With these improvements in hearing about meetings and giving us feedback about them, we hope you’ll find it easier to participate and more inclined to give us your two cents.

The Online Public Meeting Schedule – A Resource for the Interested Public

Adam Glazer
Librarian, Public Document Room


The NRC hosts hundreds of meetings throughout the year. Many of the meetings are held so you, the public, can share your thoughts about nuclear power issues. While the meeting topics vary, the way to find out about them doesn’t — you check the Public Meeting Schedule on the NRC’s Web site.

You’ll find the date and time, purpose and agenda, location, and contact name and phone number. When you click on the link to the agenda, you’ll be able to find out more information, such as who from the NRC is planning on attending the meeting. If there’s a telephone icon, there will be a phone number so you can listen in on the meeting remotely instead of traveling to it.

Our goal is to give you at least 10 days advance notice before a meeting, so that you can arrange your schedule to participate if it’s a topic you’re interested in. A word of caution – please keep checking the Web site in case there’s been a change to the meeting. Also, if there’s bad weather, we may have to cancel or postpone the meeting.

In 2012, we posted information about 1,147 meetings. There are sure to be many meetings in 2013. Perhaps one will interest 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.