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's commitment to acknowledging the sovereign rights of Federally-recognized Tribes in the development and implementation of agency policies and regulatory activities that have Tribal implications:
2014 Tribal Protocol Manual Federal Register Notice and Public Comment Period
On December 1, 2014, the NRC published a Federal Register Notice soliciting comments on the "Tribal Protocol Manual: Guidance for NRC Staff (NUREG-2173)." The updated Manual and proposed Tribal Policy Statement are the next steps in the agency's effort to formalize the process for engaging with tribal governments.
The Tribal Protocol Manual provides internal guidance to the NRC staff engaging in interactions with Federally recognized Tribal governments. The Manual was initially issued as internal staff guidance in March of 2010 and was updated and released for public comment in October of 2012. The revised Manual has been updated to include a definition of consultation for the NRC as "meaningful and timely discussion with Tribal governments on NRC regulatory actions that have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian Tribes." The Manual has also been updated to better address the unique relationship between the United States and Tribes and how the NRC exercises its trust responsibility. Additionally, the NRC made changes to the historical account of the Federal-Tribal relationship. Finally, the latest revision of the Tribal Protocol Manual includes a general discussion that addresses the contributions of Treaties, policy, law, court decisions, and Executive Orders to Federal Indian law.
Tribal governments and organizations, the public, and other interested parties were encouraged to submit comments on the "Tribal Protocol Manual: Guidance for NRC Staff" (NUREG-2173) during a 180-day comment period that ended May 31, 2015. Currently, submitted comments are being reviewed.
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.
2012 Federal Register Notice and Public Comment Period
In October 2012, the NRC solicited suggestions for the Tribal Policy Statement along with comments on the NRC Tribal Protocol Manual. The Federal Register notice sought public feedback on the following questions:
- 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?
Respondents were not limited to these questions and were encouraged to submit any information that would benefit the NRC in developing a Tribal Policy Statement. Tribal governments and organizations, the public, and other interested parties were encouraged to submit comments during a 180-day comment period that ended April 1, 2013.
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, February 15, 2022