United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Public Petition Process (NUREG/BR-0200, Rev. 5)

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Publication Information

Date Published: February 2003

Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

Introduction

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was established in 1975 to protect public health and safety in the civilian use of nuclear power and materials in the United States. As part of its responsibilities, NRC assesses all potential health and safety issues related to licensed activities and encourages members of the public to bring safety issues to its attention.

Section 2.206 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR 2.206) describes the petition process—the primary mechanism for the public to request enforcement action by NRC in a public process.* This process permits anyone to petition NRC to take enforcement action related to NRC licensees or licensed activities. Depending on the results of its evaluation, NRC could modify, suspend, or revoke an NRC-issued license or take any other appropriate enforcement action to resolve a problem. Requests that raise health and safety issues without requesting enforcement action are reviewed by means other than the 2.206 process.

In its effort to improve public confidence, the NRC periodically reassesses the 2.206 petition process to enhance its effectiveness, timeliness and credibility. As part of these reassessments, the NRC seeks feedback from petitioners and other stakeholders through public meetings and workshops, surveys and Federal Register notices, as well as from its own staff experience. Specific improvements to the 2.206 process resulting from these initiatives include:

  • Offering petitioners two opportunities to discuss the petition with the NRC’s petition review board (PRB). The first is to allow the petitioner to provide elaboration and clarification of the petition before the PRB meets to discuss the petition. The second opportunity comes after the PRB has discussed the merits of the petition and allows the petitioner to comment on the PRB’s recommendations regarding acceptance of the petition and any requests for immediate action.
  • Offering an opportunity for a staff-petitioner-licensee meeting to discuss the details of the issue during the course of the review.
  • Providing better, more frequent communications between the staff and petitioner throughout the process.
  • Providing copies of all pertinent petition-related correspondence and other documents to the petitioners.
  • Providing a copy of the proposed director’s decision on the petition, both to the petitioner and the affected licensee for comments, and considering such comments before issuing the decision in final form.

The Petition Process

The 2.206 process provides a simple, effective mechanism for anyone to request enforcement action and obtain NRC’s prompt, thorough, and objective evaluation of underlying safety issues. It is separate and distinct from the processes for rulemaking and licensing, although they too allow the public to raise safety concerns to NRC.

Under the 2.206 process, the petitioner submits a request in writing to NRC’s Executive Director for Operations, identifying the affected licensee or licensed activity, the requested enforcement action to be taken, and the facts the petitioner believes provide sufficient grounds for NRC to take enforcement action. Unsupported assertions of “safety problems,” general opposition to nuclear power, or identification of safety issues without seeking enforcement action are not considered sufficient grounds for consideration as a 2.206 petition.

After receiving a request, NRC determines whether the request qualifies as a 2.206 petition. If the request is accepted for review as a 2.206 petition, the NRC sends an acknowledgment letter to the petitioner and a copy to the appropriate licensee and publishes a notice in the Federal Register. If the request is not accepted, NRC notifies the petitioner of its decision and indicates that the petitioner’s underlying safety concerns will be considered outside the 2.206 process.

On the basis of an evaluation of the petition, the appropriate office director issues a decision and, if warranted, NRC takes appropriate enforcement action. Throughout the evaluation process, NRC sends copies of all pertinent correspondence to the petitioner and the affected licensee. NRC places all related correspondence in its Public Document Room (PDR) in Rockville, Maryland, and in the agency document control system. However, the agency withholds information that would compromise an investigation or ongoing enforcement action relating to issues in the petition. The NRC also sends the petitioner other information such as pertinent generic letters and bulletins.

The NRC notifies the petitioner of the petition’s status every 60 days, or more frequently if a significant action occurs. Monthly updates on all pending 2.206 petitions are available on NRC’s Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/petitions-2-206/index.html and in the PDR.

Petition Technical Review Meeting

A petition technical review meeting serves not only as a source of potentially valuable information for NRC to evaluate a 2.206 petition, but also affords the petitioner substantive involvement in the review and decision-making process through direct discussions with NRC and the licensee. Such a meeting will be held whenever the staff believes that it would be beneficial to the review of the petition. Note that the meeting can be offered at any time during NRC’s review of a petition and is open to public observation.

Director’s Decision

The NRC’s official response to a 2.206 petition is a written decision by the director of the appropriate office that addresses the concerns raised in the petition. The agency’s goal is to issue a proposed decision for comment within 120 days from the date of the acknowledgment letter. However, additional time may be needed to conduct an investigation, complete an inspection, or analyze particularly complex technical issues. If the goal is not met, the NRC staff will promptly inform the petitioner of a schedule change.

The director’s decision includes the professional staff’s evaluation of all pertinent information from the petition, correspondence with the petitioner and the licensee, information from any meeting, results of any investigation or inspection, and any other documents related to petition issues. Following resolution of any comments received on the proposed decision, the director’s decision is provided to the petitioner and the licensee and is posted to NRC’s Web site and made available in the PDR. A notice of availability is published in the Federal Register.

Director’s decisions may be issued as follows:

  • A decision granting a petition, in full, explains the basis for the decision and grants the action requested in the petition (e.g., NRC issuing an order to modify, suspend, or revoke a license).
  • A decision denying a petition, in full, provides the reason for the denial and discusses all matters raised in the petition.
  • A decision granting a petition, in part, in cases where the NRC decides not to grant the action requested, but takes other appropriate enforcement action or directs the licensee to take certain actions that address the identified safety concerns.
  • A partial director’s decision may be issued by the NRC in cases where some of the issues associated with the petition can be completed promptly but significant schedule delays are anticipated before resolution of the entire petition. A final director’s decision is issued at the conclusion of the effort.

The Commission will not entertain requests for review of a director’s decision. However, on its own, it may review a decision within 25 calendar days.

NRC Management Directive 8.11, “Review Process for 10 CFR 2.206 Petitions,” contains more detailed information on citizen petitions. For a free copy of the directive, write to the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37082, Washington, DC 20013-7082 or call 202-512-1800.

Electronic Access

Those parts of the monthly status report on 2.206 petitions that are not of a sensitive nature, as well as recently issued director’s decisions, and Management Directive 8.11, are placed on the NRC’s Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/petitions-2-206/index.html and in the agency’s Public Document Room.

Other Processes for Public Involvement

In addition to the 2.206 petition process, NRC has several other ways that permit the public to express concerns on matters related to the NRC’s regulatory activities.

  • The NRC’s allegation process affords individuals who raise safety concerns a degree of protection of their identity.
  • Under the provisions of 10 CFR 2.802, NRC provides an opportunity for the public to petition the agency for a rulemaking.
  • The NRC’s licensing process offers members of the public, who are specifically affected by a licensing action, an opportunity to formally participate in licensing proceedings. This process applies not only to the initial licensing actions but also to license amendments and other activities such as decommissioning and license renewals.
  • For major regulatory actions involving preparation of environmental impact statements, NRC offers separate opportunities for public participation in its environmental proceedings.
  • The public can attend a number of meetings including open Commission and staff meetings, periodic media briefings by Regional Administrators, and special meetings held near affected facilities to inform local communities and respond to their questions.

More information on these activities can be found in NRC’s pamphlet, “Public Involvement in the Nuclear Regulatory Process,” NUREG/BR-0215.

*The NRC also has an allegation process in which individuals who raise potential safety concerns for NRC review are afforded a degree of protection of their identity. Other processes for public involvement are listed at the end of this pamphlet.

Office of Public Affairs
U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001
Telephone 301-415-8200 or
1-800-368-5642

NUREG/BR-0200, Rev. 5
February 2003

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012