SEJ Urges Nuclear Regulatory Commission To Improve Openness

June 30, 2010

Openness and transparency at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? It could be worse. Nonetheless, the Society of Environmental Journalists made some cogent suggestions to the NRC as part of an open-government exercise. We will let you know if the NRC takes any of our suggestions.

President Obama ordered all federal agencies to implement open-government plans, and that required soliciting input on a mandatory web page. Working through its Freedom of Information Task Force, SEJ did not waste the opportunity.

One of the first suggestions SEJ made to the NRC was to lose the "minders" that babysit agency people while they talk to reporters — much as they did with nuclear scientists in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Back then, such interference was so offensive to the Bush administration that the US went to war because it could not see Iraq's nuclear program. The nuclear program proved largely non-existent. The US is now using some of Iraq's press policies.

Beyond ending the "minders," SEJ simply asked the NRC's press operation to do its job: keeping reporters and the public apprised of real news. SEJ recommended, among other things:

  • "Have informed press officers available during extended hours for real-time response to news media questions, including journalists’ complete working day on the West coast. Journalists have to do news 24/7, and we need access to authoritative information, position statements, and reactions."
  • "Provide weekend updates, especially when information is released or there is breaking news late Thursday or on Friday."

SEJ noted that the NRC elsewhere does a fairly good job of keeping news media and the public apprised of a large amount of technical information. One dividend on its open-gov page is a list of US research reactors. Is there one in your state?

You can read the full text of SEJ's suggestions to NRC here.