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Tribal Protocol Manual

To foster effective interaction with Native American tribes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) employs the “Tribal Protocol Manual" in implementing the Federal, State, and Tribal Liaison Program. This manual embodies the NRC commitment to acknowledging the sovereign rights of Federally-recognized Native American tribes in the development and implementation of agency policies and regulatory activities that have tribal implications. For more information, see the following topics on this page:

NRC Tribal Policy

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) is in an early stage of preparing a policy statement on consulting with Native American Tribes.  The Commission is seeking suggestions for the policy statement and comments on a draft Tribal Protocol Manual dated September 2012.  After the Tribal Protocol Manual is issued, the NRC intends to use it as a starting point for developing a policy statement on consultation with Native American tribes. An October 2012 Federal Register notice is seeking public comments on the Tribal Policy and the draft Tribal Protocol Manual.

Tribal Policy Statement

The NRC is seeking comments and feedback in developing a Tribal Consultation Policy Statement. The questions found below are offered for consideration. Respondents are not limited to these questions and are encouraged to submit any comments or feedback they think would benefit the NRC in developing a tribal consultation.

  • How can the NRC strengthen government-to-government relationships with Native American tribes?
  • What practices have the NRC or other Federal agencies employed that have been effective in identifying tribal interests and resolving tribal concerns about proposed agency actions?
  • Are there specific Tribal Policy Statements in other Federal agencies that could serve as a starting point for the NRC efforts?
  • What unique tribal issues should the NRC be aware of as a non-land holding, regulatory agency that issues licenses under the Atomic Energy Act?

Tribal governments and organizations, the public, and other interested parties can submit comments to the NRC.

History and Development of the Manual

On November 5, 2009, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Coordination. That memorandum reaffirmed Executive Order 13175, “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,” and emphasized the importance of strengthening government-to-government relationships with Native American tribes.

NRC staff reviewed the agency’s various interactions with Native American tribes, and developed a Commission Paper (SECY-09-0180), entitled “U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Interaction with Native American tribes,” dated December 11, 2009. In that paper, the staff noted that the NRC’s previous interactions had been limited to a small number of activities under the agency’s regulatory authority. The NRC concluded that because a “case-by-case” approach had proven effective in these interactions with Native American tribes by allowing for custom-tailored approaches that met Commission and tribal needs, that no formal policy was needed at that time.

However, the staff also determined that it would benefit from an internal protocol to guide its future interactions with Native American tribes and, therefore, developed “Tribal Protocol Manual: Guidance for NRC Employees”, in March 2010.

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2012 Revision

Historically, the NRC has consulted on a case-by-case basis with Native American tribes regarding various licensing actions. Recently, however, a heightened interest in uranium recovery development and new nuclear reactor construction has resulted in a significant increase in the number and complexity of consultations between the NRC and Native American tribes in order to address the obligations and requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

The NHPA was enacted in 1966 to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic properties. Section 106 of the NHPA directs Federal agencies to consider the effects of their proposed actions on historic properties as a part of their decisionmaking process. Specifically, the regulations of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which implement Section 106, set forth requirements for a Federal agency’s consultation with Native American tribes. [See Title 36, Section 800.2(c)(2), of the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 800.2).]

In light of these increased interactions with Native American tribes, the Commission issued "Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) COMWDM-12-0001, Tribal Consultation Policy Statement and Protocol,” dated May 22, 2012. That SRM directed the NRC staff to develop a tribal protocol manual and a proposed tribal consultation policy statement.

As a part of these efforts, the NRC produced a draft Tribal Protocol Manual, dated September 2012, which is based on the internal March 2010 “Tribal Protocol Manual: Guidance for NRC Employees.” Consistent with the NRC’s commitment to openness and collaboration, the staff issued a Federal Register Notice (77 FR 62269, PDF | Text | More), requesting comments on this draft Tribal Protocol Manual as well as suggestions on the development of a proposed formal tribal consultation policy statement.

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Contact Us

Interested parties may access information and comment submissions related to the draft Tribal Protocol Manual by searching Regulations.gov under Docket ID NRC-2012-0235. For instructions on how to submit comments, please see the Federal Register Notice. You may also Contact Us to offer your comments regarding the draft Tribal Protocol Manual, as well as your suggestions regarding the proposed formal tribal consultation policy statement.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, March 07, 2014