The Rulemaking Process
The process of developing regulations is called rulemaking. The NRC's technical staff usually initiates a proposed rule or a change to a rule because they see a need to do so to protect the public health and safety. However, any member of the public may petition the NRC to develop, change, or rescind a rule.
The rulemaking process has several steps:
- Proposed Rules
NRC regulations (rules) provide licensees with requirements that, if met, will result in adequate protection of workers, the public, and the environment. The impetus for a proposed rule could be a requirement issued by the Commission, a petition for rulemaking submitted by a member of the public, or research results that indicate a need for a rule change. The proposed rule is published in the Federal Register and usually contains (1) the background information about the proposed rule, (2) an address for submitting comments, (3) the date by which comments should be received in order to ensure consideration by the staff, (4) an explanation indicating why the rule change is thought to be needed, and (5) the proposed text to be changed. Usually, the public is given 75 to 90 days to provide written comments.
Not all rules are issued for public comment. Generally, those excepted from public comment deal with agency organization, procedure, or practice; are interpretations; or are rules for which delaying their publication to receive comments would be contrary to public interest and impracticable. (See Section 553, "Rulemaking" of the Administrative Procedures Act.)
- Final Rules
Once the public comment period has closed, the staff analyzes the comments, makes any needed changes, and forwards the Final Rule for approval, signature, and publication in the Federal Register. Each final rule that involves significant matters of policy is sent to the NRC Commissioners for approval. Once approved, the final rule is published in the Federal Register and usually becomes effective 30 days later.
- Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemakings
For especially important or controversial rules, the staff may publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) or conduct one or more public meetings. The ANPR solicits comment well in advance of the proposed rulemaking stage. The need for some action is described, but only broad concepts are discussed for a proposed action.