Report: Better public engagement needed from NRC

March 12, 2024, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new report from the Breakthrough Institute has identified challenges and offers recommendations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for fostering inclusive and transparent dialogue and engagement with the public.

Improving Nuclear Regulatory Commission Engagement: Enhancement to Ensure Transparency and Collaboration with the Public notes that despite recent agency efforts at improving public engagement, such as through website upgrades and additional community meetings, the NRC still tends to prioritize technical jargon and complex procedures rather than offer clear, accessible communication. This leads to alienating the interested public, including community members and other stakeholders, and fostering misconceptions.



Stakeholder collaboration: According to the report, authored by nuclear energy analyst Leigh Anne Lloveras and Adam Stein, director of the institute’s Nuclear Energy Innovation program, the NRC has done an inadequate job of reaching out to stakeholders for collaboration.

The report recommends that the NRC “reassess its approach to decision-making, prioritizing external input to ensure transparency and inclusivity,” and that the agency seek “feedback through stakeholder surveys and strengthening [of] relationships with environmental justice communities, and U.S. Tribes.”

Accessing information: In addition to offering information to the public, the NRC needs to make sure that the information is “easier for the public to access . . . [and] more usable.” Recommendations include updating web platforms, increasing staff capacity for engagement, and implementing standardized procedures for meetings, including notifications and access.

Congressional oversight: The report recommends that Congress “provide adequate funding to support NRC efforts in public engagement and oversee the NRC’s efforts in this area,” stressing that “sustained progress” in the agency’s public transparency and engagement can be achieved only with “off-fee funding and improved congressional oversight.

Under existing law: The report concludes that the majority of its 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.”

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