Improving Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Engagement

Enhancements to Ensure Transparency and Collaboration With the Public

Improving Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Engagement

Executive Summary

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) acknowledges the importance of public engagement but faces challenges in fostering inclusive and transparent dialogue. Despite recent efforts to improve, including website upgrades and additional community meetings, the NRC has not yet addressed the underlying issues. Its tendency to prioritize technical jargon and complex procedures, rather than clear, accessible communication, alienates the interested public, including community members and other stakeholders, and fosters misconceptions. This report, informed by extensive engagement with the NRC in public meetings, identifies key challenges and offers recommendations for improvement.

Challenges and Recommendations:

  • Collaboration with External Stakeholders: The NRC should reassess its approach to decision-making, prioritizing external input to ensure transparency and inclusivity. Recommendations include seeking feedback through stakeholder surveys and strengthening relationships with environmental justice communities, and U.S. Tribes.
  • Use Meaningful Two-Way Communication: Facilitating dialogue with stakeholders, including industry, is essential for collaborative problem-solving. The NRC should set a standard to provide clear answers during public interactions and invest in internal training of its staff to enhance communication skills.
  • Communicating with the Public and Managing Information: The NRC needs to make it easier for the public to access information that the agency intends to be public. Databases and other on-line information should be more usable. Recommendations include updating web platforms, increasing staff capacity for engagement, and implementing standardized procedures for meetings, including notifications and access.
  • Presenting Technical Information in More Accessible Formats: To bridge the knowledge gap, the NRC should present technical documents and meeting materials in more accessible formats. Enhancements to the Agency-wide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) and the introduction of project dashboards are recommended.
  • Providing Adequate Resources and Oversight: Congress should provide adequate funding to support NRC efforts in public engagement and oversee the NRC’s efforts in this area. Off-fee funding and improved Congressional oversight are necessary for sustained progress.

The majority of the recommendations can be adopted by the NRC under existing law, without structural changes. In many cases, challenges can be addressed by applying current best practices consistently across the agency. Congress needs to provide additional oversight to ensure objectives are achieved, and to provide targeted funding in this area. The recommendations in this report are a well-informed starting point, with specific issues and solutions identified. However, further collaboration with stakeholders is needed to identify other focus areas and establish a culture of continuous improvement.