Champions' Message for January 2021
The first full year as the National Materials Program (NMP) Champions was memorable. Although 2020 is finally behind us, the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) continues to challenge the NMP community as we continue to deal with evolving restrictions, Two of the four Champions' Chats this year addressed the PHE. On June 17, we not only heard about challenges facing the NMP community due to the PHE, but also how those challenges were being met to continue to protect public health and safety. On December 10, we heard how the NMP community had adjusted to conducting virtual inspections. Tyler Kruse, Betsy Ullrich and Megan Shober discussed their agency's development of guidance for virtual inspections, and their experiences and challenges in conducting virtual inspections in a number of different settings and circumstances. If you did not have the opportunity to attend either chat, the recordings are posted on the NMP website in the Communication Section.
Our second and third chats focused on communication. They featured information sharing during event response on August 19th, and sharing information on events, incidents, investigations, enforcement, and reciprocity on October 22nd. During the August 19 chat, Rob Lewis and Jared Thompson provided thoughtful and interesting perspectives on the expectation to provide timely event information to a number of stakeholders. This chat was not recorded due to technical difficulties. The October 22 chat featured Aaron McCraw who discussed the March 2020 changes to Inspection Manual Chapter 2800 Materials Inspection Program that encouraged the exchange of information between the NRC and Agreement States. We also heard from Jeff Dauzat on the challenges of information sharing from an Agreement State perspective.
Also in 2020, the efforts of the NMP community were featured during two Commission briefings. During the September 16th Commission briefing on the NRC response to the COVID-19 PHE, NMSS highlighted the importance of the Agreement State partnership in the NMP's response. The November 8th Commission on the Nuclear Materials User Business detailed the numerous areas were the NMP community was working together to ensure the safe and secure use of radioactive materials. The briefing included a video The National Materials Program: A 21st Century Partnership that provided a perspective from NRC and Agreement State staff on the five objectives of the NMP. The video is posted on the NRC's Facebook page, and can be accessed from the NMP website.
The 2020-2021 priorities for the NMP have been posted on the NMP website. You will notice that there are some holdovers from last year but includes some new priorities as well. One priority that we are excited about is the development of a communication platform on the State Communication Portal (SCP) that will allow NRC and Agreement State staff to post questions and share information. The communication platform will be developed by the SCP contractor and we look forward to its introduction sometime in 2021.
Training and staff retention continue to be a priority, but meeting those needs have become particularly difficult during the PHE. Travel restrictions and local outbreaks have played havoc with the 2020-2021 training schedule. The Technical Training Center has done a great job in modifying some courses to virtual offerings and offering a number of on-line courses; however, we are looking forward to getting back to in-class training sometime in 2021.
In our last Champions' Corner, we talked about expanding our risk-informed approach to compliance to be more accommodating to protect the lives of our staff, the public, occupational workers and the regulated community. Over the last several months, the NRC has introduced its riskSmart approach to some of the activities in the NMP, particularly with some rulemaking and guidance development. Additional efforts are underway including the revision of materials inspection procedures. To be modern risk-informed regulators, we need to be adaptive in our approaches in protecting public health and safety. As evident by our successes during the PHE, the NMP community continues to meet the challenge.
The Co-Champions continue to meet bi-weekly to discuss issues, opportunities, and strategies for improvement. We will continue to relay and advocate differing positions in advance of decisions being formulated, and work to find common ground so important work may move forward.
Open communication and collaboration are strengths in the NMP community. Continue to be open to flexibility and share your successes and challenges with your Regional State Agreement Officers and Co-Champions.
Duncan White, NRC Co-Champion
Lee Cox, OAS Co-Champion