109th ACNW Meeting U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, May 12, 1999
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON NUCLEAR WASTE
MEETING: 109TH ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ON NUCLEAR WASTE (ACNW)
Two White Flint, North
11545 Rockville Pike, Room T2-B3
Wednesday, May 12, 1999
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 8:35 a.m.
B. JOHN GARRICK, Chairman, ACNW
RAYMOND G. WYMER, Member, ACNW
GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Member, ACNW
CHARLES FAIRHURST, Member, ACNW. STAFF PRESENT:
LYNN G. DEERING, ACNW
RICHARD K. MAJOR, ACNW
ANDREW C. CAMPBELL, ACNW
HOWARD J. LARSON, ACNW
DR. LARKINS, ACNW
WILLIAM TRAVERS, NRC
FRANK MIRAGLIA, NRC
MICHAEL JOHNSON, NRR
BRUCE BOGER, NRR
MS. HOWARD, NEI
WALTER HILL, NEI
DR. SCHOENFELD, Research
MS. DAWES, EPA
DR. CARL PAPERIELLO, NMSS
MR. REAME. P R O C E E D I N G S
DR. GARRICK: Good morning. The meeting will now come to
This is the second day of the 109th meeting of the Advisory
Committee on Nuclear Waste. My name is John Garrick, Chairman of the
ACNW. Other Members of the Committee include George Hornberger, Ray
Wymer, and Charles Fairhurst.
The entire meeting will be open to the public. Today the
Committee will first discuss recent experience and plans for improving
risk communication and public outreach with representatives of the
Environmental Protection Agency, the NRC staff, and the Nuclear Energy
We will meet with the NRC's executive director for
operations, Dr. William Travers, and NRC's deputy executive director for
regulatory affairs, Mr. Frank J. Miraglia, to discuss items of mutual
interest. And we will discuss possible ACNW reports on first, low
levels of ionizing radiation, second, a white paper on repository
design, and third, NRC's waste-related research and technical assistance
Lynn Deering is the designated Federal official for the
initial portion of today's meeting.
This meeting is being conducted in accordance with the
provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. We have received no
written statements or requests to make oral statements from members of
the public regarding today's session. Should anyone wish to address the
Committee, please make your wishes known to one of the Committee staff.
And as usual, it's requested that each speaker use one of
the microphones, identify themselves, and speak with clarity and volume
so that we can hear what you have to say.
Today we as a Committee venture into some relatively new
territory. One of the issues that we have on our first-tier priority
list this year is to be more active in offering advice to the Commission
on stakeholder participation. A component of that activity is the
business of how we communicate with each other and with the public. We
are planning a working group on that subject later this year.
In preparation for that, we will be hearing from a variety
of experts and organizations that have programs or activities having to
do with outreach, having to do with risk communication, and the general
subject of how to involve the public in the nuclear regulatory decision
So I think with that we'll move directly into the
presentations. Our first presentation will be from -- as I understand
it there's been a substitute here. It was to be Frank Gillespie, but
it's going to be Michael Johnson and Bruce Boger. I gather they're from
the same Office of Inspection and Support from NRR, and they're going to
talk to us about risk-informed, performance-based regulation
Please introduce yourself and the subsequent speakers.
MR. BOGER: Thank you. My name is Bruce Boger. I am the
director of the Division of Inspection Program Management at NRR. And
today Mike Johnson, who's the section chief in the Inspection Program
Branch, is going to provide a presentation on not quite what you said,
but something pretty close.
DR. GARRICK: Well, that isn't the first time I've
MR. BOGER: When we make some of these last-minute changes,
sometimes things fall through the cracks, but basically there has been a
lot of interest and concern in whether or not the NRC inspection and
oversight program has kept pace with the progress that industry has
made. By many measures the industry is performing better, and so in
recognition of that, we've made some changes.
We're looking at ways to change the inspection process, ways
to change the performance assessment of licensees, and Mike's going to
talk about that. But it is a big challenge for us, because it's not
only a communication issue with the public or with people outside. We
have a large communications challenge within the NRC, our inspectors,
our supervisors, and the like. So what we thought we'd do is talk about
changes to the process itself, because you may not be familiar with the
changes that we need to make, and along the way we'll discuss the
communications issues that we have. And if that's okay with you, then
Michael, carry on.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you. Thanks, Bruce.
As Bruce said, my name is Michael Johnson, from the
Inspection Programs Branch. And I've handed out a slide package, but
again admittedly the slide package and the presentation I'd actually
planned to give you focuses a lot on the oversight process, not a lot on
what we've done in terms of bringing in stakeholders and the development
of the process and what we plan in terms of the communication.
So what I'll do is I'll go through that presentation very
quickly to sort of give you the overview, but I'll try to weave in what
has been a substantial effort, really an outreach effort for us in
developing this revised oversight process, and I'll talk a little bit
about what it is we plan to do to implement that process, to communicate
the process both internally and to keep stakeholders, the external
stakeholders, all of the stakeholders involved as we go into
Just by way of background, as Bruce indicated, beginning a
year ago and even earlier we began to recognize and get feedback on the
fact that in fact there are some changes going on that we needed to be
responsive to in the area of reactor oversight. We had a maturing
industry and a maturing technology, certainly a demonstrated history of
improved plant performance. We've had tools, regulatory tools that
we've been working on and refining over the years. And in the area of
deregulation, where licensees are pressed upon to become more and more
competitive, and with the internal factors that we had going on at the
Agency, we certainly began to recognize that we need to find ways to be
more effective, that is, to get the information that we need to allow us
to do our mission, but do it in a way that minimizes unnecessary burden
to licensees. And so that was the real impetus for what we did, took on
in terms of revising the oversight process.
Just a quick couple of slides that I won't spend any time
on, really, the trends are, if you'll just glance at them, this is the
industry's performance, using the performance indicators that we keep
track of and that the industry keeps track of, and as you can see, from
'86 to 1988 there have been drastic improvements in the performance of
DR. GARRICK: Do you think that message is out to the public
about this drastic improvement?
MR. JOHNSON: I think it is, actually. We -- as I'll talk
about in a few minutes, when we've gotten in front at public meetings
and talked about changes to the revised oversight process, in fact when
we've made changes, recent changes to the way we oversee reactors, we
have tried to communicate the fact that in general the message is good,
in general the trends are good, and we -- in fact, I'll talk about what
we think are the important mission directions that we ought to take in
the area of overseeing reactors, and that is reflective of the fact that
the industry's performance is improving, and we try to communicate that
in as many forms as we possibly can. But you're right, it's a tough
message to get out there.
DR. GARRICK: Yes. Thank you.
MR. JOHNSON: One of the first things that we did with the
thoughts that I've just mentioned with this maturing industry with the
trends in improvements, with the need that we felt to improve our
effectiveness and to consider stakeholder input and how we ought to
really be overseeing the performance of reactors, one of the first
things that we did was to develop a top-down approach to developing the
revised oversight process, and we structured that top-down approach in
terms of a framework that I'll talk about in just a second. And then we
looked at some -- given that framework, what are the defining
principles, what are really the design specifications that you would put
in place to implement that -- to defer the development and implement
And then we conducted a public meeting. That public meeting
was in October, September and October of last year, where we invited
members from the industry, utilities, NEI, INPO, State regulators. We
invited folks and as many people who would show up we entertained in
that workshop, and the purpose of that workshop was to try to get
alignment on this top-down approach to oversight in the area of
This framework, and I won't spend a lot of time on the
framework and the details of the process, but the framework really does
start at a high level, our public safety mission, the mission as it is
outlined in the Atomic Energy Act, and it's near and dear to us. In
fact, it shows up on our strategic plans and in many, many high-level
documents. It's to provide again adequate protection of public health
Then if you look, working down, at the strategic plan, the
strategic plan actually talks about areas of performance where we
actually in the strategic plan have specific goals with respect to
reactor safety, radiation safety, and safeguards. And so we looked
again to fulfill that mission at figuring out what those areas were.
Now this whole framework then is driven by the next level
down, which are our cornerstones, and basically what we've done in
designing the cornerstones is asked ourselves to recognize that there
are a lot of things that we could be worried about with respect to this
revised oversight process. There are a lot of regulations, a lot of
regulatory requirements, there are many, many things that licensees
ought to be worried about. But what are those core essential things
that if we have information on them we can know with a degree of
assurance that if the licensee is performing adequately with respect to
these cornerstones, that we are performing adequately in these strategic
performance areas, and therefore the licensee and we are meeting our
ultimate mission of providing adequate protection of public health and
safety? And so this process, the framework that we developed, really is
very much driven by these individual cornerstones.
What we did then was to look in those cornerstones and ask
ourselves what are the important pieces of information with respect to
these cornerstones, and the cornerstones are -- I guess I ought to just
spend one more second to talk about the cornerstones.
Basically what we said is if licensees maintain or minimize
these initiating events that ultimately end up in resulting in core
damage, if they can somehow minimize those initiating events, if even
though they have those initiating events they can -- the systems, the
functions that are required to be called upon to mitigate those events
in fact do work if they maintain the barriers, the physical barriers
that would result in exposure or release of radioactive material to the
environment, if those barriers function properly such that even if you
had an initiating event and your mitigation systems didn't work, the
barriers would function well, and if the licensee had an emergency plan
that could be implemented, exercised appropriately to get people living
near the site away from and to avoid exposure to radioactive materials,
if again the licensees performed in each of these areas appropriately,
then we could say with respect to reactor safety that our public health
and safety mission was being implemented.
And so it's very much an indicator sort of an approach to
looking at again these cornerstones, the essential information to make
decisions about our public health and safety mission.
Now within each of those cornerstones what we did was we
asked ourselves what are the important attributes that I need to decide
that the initiating events are okay, what of that information can I get
directly from performance indicators, what of that information can I get
directly from performance indicators, what of that information do I have
to get from inspections because performance indicators are not
appropriate or not adequate to give the information that we need, and
then so it's the combination of those performance indicators and
inspections and other information that we use to make decisions with
respect to each of the cornerstones. That's the framework.
DR. GARRICK: Yes, these strike me as the kind of
performance indicators that really are in keeping with the transition to
risk-informed, performance-based regulatory practice.
Are you also able to at this level address the issue to the
public at the level of the cornerstones for example of what the NRC
means by defense in depth?
MR. JOHNSON: Are you asking if we are able to or --
DR. GARRICK: If the public asks the question. I understand
this has a very logical progression, but one of the fundamental tenets
of our regulatory practice of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the
concept of defense-in-depth. Now how does that enter -- I am asking
this as if I were a member of the public.
MR. JOHNSON: I understand. That is a real communications
challenge, to answer that question, in fact, and if you look at what we
have on the docket in terms of written information about
defense-in-depth and how that fits into the process you would really
have to go back to the Commission paper that forwarded the entire
We haven't done a lot in terms of speaking to the public in
terms of how that fits within this process. I am going to talk in a
second -- I will show you very quickly what the inspection program, the
risk-informed baseline inspection program ends up looking like to
support the information that we need with respect to initiating events.
DR. GARRICK: The only reason, Mike, I bring up this point
is I think one of the things that the public is looking for is
connectivity, if you wish, logic between the practices that the NRC is
engaged in and every time something is proposed, is it proposed just
because somebody has raised a question and this is a response to that
question, or is there a fundamental philosophy from which all of this
comes that one can draw and provide mapping from one aspect of that
fundamental philosophy to the other.
MR. JOHNSON: I understand.
MR. BOGER: Mike, I think one aspect of that is when you
look in the inspection area certainly design control is an element that
we have to inspect. We can't go by performance indicators for design so
that is an embedded thing, and that is where a lot of the
defense-in-depth is already built into the system, so we would be
monitoring actual design through the inspection process so I appreciate
your question, but I think that is another element that we bring into
MR. JOHNSON: Yes. Bruce is exactly right. The other thing
to keep in mind is, and again I will show you the inspection areas and
you will see that we really do touch quite a bit outside of what we can
directly monitor through performance indicators.
The other thing to keep in mind is that this oversight
process really is -- it doesn't supplant the regulatory requirements.
It doesn't let the licensees off the hook with respect to all of those
things that I said licensees need to worry about, but what it does do is
it enables us to figure out by focusing on the key essentials how we
ought to -- basically at a very quick look at where the licensee stands
but also how we ought to interact based on where we think the licensee
falls out with respect to performance. That may become clear but it
certainly is a good question.
That is the framework.
Let me mention just quickly the process.
MR. BOGER: It's straightforward.
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, with lots of colors. The process then
really does again rely on performance indicators and risk-informed
baseline inspection because there are again holes in the performance
Incidentally, there's an area of this risk-informed baseline
inspection that needs to verify the PIs to make sure that the PIs that
are being reported are being reported accurately.
We take that information from the inspection program and we
take that information from the performance indicators and that
information -- we look at that information in each of the cornerstones
to make decisions about -- to enter an action matrix. I will show you
the action matrix very quickly. That action matrix then, based on the
performance and the performance indicators and the risk-informed
baseline, decides or helps us decide what actions we ought to take on in
terms of interacting with licensees in terms of what should we have a
management meetings, what licensee's actions would be appropriate based
on the performance that we have seen, what NRC inspection is necessary
to follow up on what we have seen, what other regulatory actions would
be appropriate, what assessment reports, how do we communicate the
results of that assessment to licensees and to the public and then how
do we communicate that information in a public meeting such that all of
the stakeholders can understand where it is we think the licensee stands
with respect to the performance again in the framework and what actions
we intend to take to address areas where we think performance
deficiencies exist. So that in a nutshell is how this revised oversight
process will work.
Now let me just go on to say very quickly that the process
is very much thresholds driven. The fundamental concept is if we
establish PIs and we assign thresholds to those performance indicators,
and if we establish somehow thresholds for the inspection that we are
going to do, if a licensee hasn't crossed those thresholds then that
really does belong, even though we may find things that are of concern
to our inspectors or the management of the NRC, if the licensee hasn't
crossed those thresholds that licensee's performance is in the licensee
response band, or really the green band.
This is sort of a conceptual model. If you look at any one
of those performance indicators, if you look t the inspection that we
will do in any of the areas that we will do with then the cornerstones
to supplement the performance indicators, we make decisions. We apply
those results to see where the thresholds fall out and if the licensee
hasn't crossed any of those thresholds, then the licensee is free to
manage themselves. Issues that we find will go into the licensee's
corrective action system. They would address those concerns.
I won't say a lot about the thresholds except to say that
this threshold is set we think at a low enough level to allow us to
recognize on those performance indicators and on the inspections
deviations outside -- what we did is we took the normal, what is normal
industry performance with respect to the number of scrams for example,
and we looked at what is a nominal deviation outside of that normal
performance, and so this threshold is set on picking up licensee
performance outside what is a nominal deviation from normal performance,
so this is set at a fairly low level.
The reason for that is we want to be able to interact at a
low enough level to enable us to take action again before a significant
decline in performance occurs.
This threshold is -- the white to yellow indicates that we
leave the increased regulatory response performance band to a required
regulatory response band and in the red zone again a greater performance
degradation. We have told ourselves that we are not going to allow
plants to operate, and we in fact talked with the industry and the
industry agrees, this is a band that neither the industry would expect
to operate or we would expect to allow the industry to operate with
performance in this particular band.
Any question on that -- this band's performance?
DR. GARRICK: Yes. We know about the maintenance rule and
how it works but do the plant-specific PRAs enter into the threshold
decision-making process in any way?
MR. JOHNSON: They do, but we are not driven by the
plant-specific PRAs, so let me try to explain that a little bit.
We set thresholds -- let me go to a chart of the PIs, for
example, and that may make it clearer. This is just a table of the
performance indicators, a list of the performance indicators starting
with that list.
You actually have two slides in your hand on the performance
indicators, and you will see that the right column is a little bit
chopped off, so you won't be able to read it. I apologize for that, but
that is okay. We really wanted to just give you a list.
What we did in setting the thresholds, the green to white
thresholds, again was to try to say what is the deviation from nominal
performance? To go to that next level, we really try to look at
performance declines that where we could quantify them would result in a
delta CDF of e to the minus 5. That is how we tried to set that second,
that green to white, threshold. Let me see if I can find this chart.
Where we could possibly quantify it, we tried to set
thresholds for the PIs -- I'm sorry, from this white to yellow
threshold, at a delta CDF of e to the minus 5. Now we didn't do that
baseline on any plant-specific PRA. In fact, this is very crude, as you
will recognize, but we think that's okay.
MR. BOGER: Mike, there is another aspect that I know you
will get to when you talk about how we treat some of the inspection
findings, and I think that is an opportunity where we would factor in
some plant-specific PRA type information.
DR. GARRICK: The only reason for the question is to get
some sense of the extent to which it is truly risk-informed and since
risk is such a plant-specific phenomena I was just curious as to how you
were accounting for the specificity issue.
MR. JOHNSON: So the way we account for it is we do it sort
of on a generic basis. We say this is a threshold -- this is sort of a
generic threshold. Does this mean that licensee tripped from a green to
a white? If that licensee has tripped from a green to a white based on
the performance indicators, we do it sort of based on the generic PRA
We don't actually require that we get to a plant-specific
PSA result based on the PIs. Now as Bruce has indicated, also we do an
analogous thing with inspection results. We run it through a
significance determination process again set up to use generic sorts of
insights to decide whether the licensee is in the green band, the
utility response band, or the required regulatory response band or
Now should enter into the later phases or have to do
additional work, we get into discussions with the licensee as to where
exactly the performance is that is supposed to have an issue, a finding.
An inspector goes out and has a finding and based on that finding we
would say the licensee is in the white band, so we are going to do some
follow-up inspection, and the licensee says well, no, actually if you
look at my plant's PRA, we really would be in the green band. We have
in fact in the significance determination process that Bruce has talked
about provisions to actually take that additional step to make those
kinds of discussions.
We realistically hope that that kind of discussion does not
have to happen, because, as I talk about in the action matrix, the
thresholds, the consequences for crossing the threshold from green to
white really simply are that we are going to go out and do some
additional follow-up inspection to see in fact if there really is a
problem so in that additional look we will be able to iron out any gross
assumptions that we made in this performance indicator scaling or in the
significance determination process.
Let me just put up two additional charts and then let me try
to talk about what we have done in terms of communicating this process
and what we plan to do.
You can't read this on the viewgraph. It is really put up
for effect. The only point I am trying to make --
DR. GARRICK: It is really put up to show that you are
probably an engineer.
MR. JOHNSON: Right. This wouldn't be a very good
presentation if I didn't put up a slide you couldn't read.
I am really just trying to indicate to folks who would say
or be concerned that -- and in fact some of our non-industry
stakeholders have been concerned or were concerned in the early days
that we were giving it all to these very high level indicators and we
were going to totally back off based on the fact that no plant is going
to exceed -- the green and white threshold for scrams for example is
three scrams per 7,000 critical hours. The industry averages about half
a scram. If you just rely on the indicators alone you are never going
to get to a point where the regulator goes out and does additional
Well, there really are, as I have indicated, areas where we
need to do inspection. There are areas that the PIs don't touch. One
of those bullets, as Bruce talked about, is we know that we need to go
out and we need to look at design. We know that there are various areas
that we need to look at within each of the cornerstones to satisfy
ourselves that we know where the licensee's performance is, and these
areas are captured in the performance-based baseline inspection program.
Again we have a risk-informed approach to figuring out what
we are going to sample in each of these areas and what frequency we are
going to sample those various areas.
The purpose of all of this is to get inputs to the action
matrix to allow us to decide based on the performance of the plant,
based on whether or not that plant has crossed thresholds, what actions
should we take to ensure that the licensee is following up and
addressing concerns and implementing lasting corrective actions.
This action matrix has the results and the responses down
the left column. It has, as you look across the top, the results of the
PIs and the inspections that we do, and as you can see in looking at
this left column if you have a plant and that plant hasn't crossed any
of the thresholds, that plant is simply going to get risk-informed
baseline inspection, the risk-informed baseline inspection that I talked
about, in that very busy viewgraph, and we are going to send out an
annual assessment report that is very brief that tries to convey as
concisely as possible the fact that the plant is all green because it
hasn't crossed any thresholds. We as a regulator believe that that
plant is operating in a manner that enables us to say that the public
health and safety is being protected -- so that is for a plant that is
in -- again, hasn't crossed any thresholds.
As soon as a threshold is crossed we do follow-up, focused
follow-up in that particular area, to see what the cause was, to see
what the licensee has done to address those particular -- the root
causes that enabled them to cross that threshold, and again we sign
out -- we do an annual assessment report and sign that out.
Then as move -- and I won't go all through this table -- but
you see as you go further to the right, the NRC inspection gets more
invasive. The regulatory actions get more severe, and again for a plant
that is overall unacceptable we are not even going to allow that plant
So what will the public see? What will this look like? We
anticipate a report card. If you remember the old SALP report with SALP
functional areas and all of that, we envision on Internet, on the web
page, external web page that you will be able to get on to, in fact, we
are planning that you will be able to get on for a plant and pull up a
screen that looks very much like this.
Again, you will recognize the framework. This will actually
be in colors. These are the PIs, scrams and transients. This is trying
to indicate, I guess the white -- this is actually a green. The
licensee hasn't crossed the threshold here, the licensee has crossed
this threshold. These are the inspection areas that we will do within
each of the cornerstones.
And so at a glance you can see where the licensee's
performance is and then you will be able to click on any one of these if
you want to see, for example, what the trends and scrams have been. And
there will be a graph, and I didn't bring one, but it will show that
trend. It will show where the threshold is. It will show comments, for
example, where the licensee has, in fact, crossed thresholds.
Likewise, you can click on one of these inspection areas.
Let's say in this area was a significant inspection finding, you can
actually go and click on that inspection finding, see what it was, see
why we think it was significant and see what the licensee has done in
response to that. So we think it is going to be a neat communication
vehicle, again, that we make available to the public on the external web
-- public and other stakeholders on the external web.
Questions on that?
DR. GARRICK: I could ask a lot of questions, but I won't.
Charles, do you have any?
DR. FAIRHURST: No, thank you.
DR. GARRICK: Do you have any questions, Ray?
DR. WYMER: I have a comment. What you have got is very
reasonable looking. I would be very surprised if you hadn't been doing
all this before your new framework. I can't imagine that it is a
radical departure from what you have been doing.
MR. JOHNSON: There are many elements of the revised
oversight process and the revised inspection program that we have, in
fact, been doing. But one of the things, I think the beauty of this
framework and the approach that we have taken has been that we, for the
first time, have this framework on paper. And, in fact, we have then
the plans or the structure, if you will, to entertain changes, future
changes to the inspection program or future changes to the oversight
process based on what is going on.
For example, we have -- we frequently have issues that
inspectors find in the field that they are concerned about, that they
believe ought to result in additional inspection. And the question is,
given this framework, where does it fit in the framework? How does it
line up with the cornerstones? Does it, in fact, provide information on
one of the attributes that we need information on to support what it is
that we are trying to do?
So the framework really is one of the things that we think
is the strongest point of this revised oversight process.
The other thing that we think is important about the revised
oversight process is that we developed it with the industry, with the
external stakeholders, with internal stakeholders in a way that has been
unprecedented. Following that workshop that we had in September and
October that we had outstanding participation on, that we had alignment
at that workshop -- I led that workshop and I talked about alignment and
we had agreement with the industry with the stakeholders that this was
the framework, that if it is to be concerned, if we are to be concerned
about safety, it is on these pages, within this framework. We talked
about the principles that we would use, that we would have thresholds,
and we got alignment in that workshop on those principles.
Moving forward from that workshop, we have had sometimes
weekly meetings, no less than biweekly, with the industry, public
meetings with the industry. We have had meetings with David Lochbaum
and members of the trade press, whoever would show up at those meetings,
where we have done the development of this concept into the process that
I just showed you, into the procedures that we have just talked about.
We have shared the draft procedures with the industry,
something that is largely unprecedented. In all of the development that
we have done in the past on inspection procedures, they are typically
developed in-house, shared with the regions, and then we implement a new
inspection, and for all but major things like inspection, for example,
the maintenance rule we did a more interactive approach with the
stakeholders on that, but, typically, licensees find out about new
inspections because they see a new inspection procedure that has been
implemented. And so we have had an incredible outreach program to get
people online instep with this development and get their input to make
changes as necessary.
MR. BOGER: One subtle reaction. Down in the lower
righthand corner it talks about problem identification and resolution.
There is a large reliance upon licensee's corrective action programs to
identify problems and correct them. So, one of the reactions you may
have from an inspector to a reactor scram, if a licensee is in the
licensee response band, the resident staff, if it was a scram without
complications, would be expected to really not react the way they used
to. Rather than going in and finding out exactly what went on, what the
details were and things like that, the reaction is to see what the
licensee is doing and monitor the licensee's corrective action program
as a result of that scram, because they are in the licensee response
So that is a significant change for us to put our hands in
our pockets and watch that.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. WYMER: The really important differences are kind of
buried in the process.
DR. GARRICK: I think one of the -- we are the Nuclear Waste
Committee, not the Reactor Committee, but we are interested in the
process. And one of the things that we will really move this into the
regime of being risk-informed is to eventually be able to click on
things that tell you where you are with to your risk measures.
And, of course, the maintenance rule is a step in that
direction in trying to be accountable for the different configurations
of the plant and the risk is a function of those configurations.
We know that the core damage frequency, for example, varies
anywhere from one to three orders of magnitude depending on the
configuration. And so that is the kind of information that would really
I would think maybe be the next step here, is to be able to display to
how often a particular plant was in configuration A versus B, C, or D
and, of course, what the risk was in those different configurations, so
that you begin to get some insight into the dynamics of what is going
But I would just make the comment because it seems to me
that if, indeed, we are interested in being risk-informed, we have
sooner or later got to be able to calibrate that against some sort of
risk measure. And the maintenance rule is clearly a step in that
MR. JOHNSON: I understand and that is a very good point.
Incidentally, and we are not there yet, but, in fact, this significance
determination process that we are running the inspection findings
through has the inspection finding that they would put forward as a
finding of significance, in fact, consider aspects of configuration in
sort of a risk framework approach to try to gauge the significance of
that finding. So that is how we are doing it today.
But you are right, it would be wonderful to be able to see,
from a historical perspective, where the plant has been with respect to
risk based on the operating profile.
DR. GARRICK: Right. If there was even something like a
year summary --
MR. JOHNSON: Right.
DR. GARRICK: -- that would give you some sort of tabulation
of the times that the plant was in these different configurations and
what the risk assessment said the risk was during those times, you would
begin to get some insight --
MR. JOHNSON: Right.
DR. GARRICK: -- into how often the plant had compromised,
you might say, its baseline risk.
MR. JOHNSON: Right. I understand.
Let me, and I know I am out of time, let me just talk about
the major transition milestones. We are awaiting final Commission
approval, I have seen the voted sheets, and we expect that approval,
with comment, of course.
We have been conducting workshops, a series of workshops,
internal workshops for the staff, to bring the staff up to speed and to
get them trained. Also, the workshops with the industry, we had a PI
workshop a few weeks ago now out in Chicago to meet with the industry
and the staff, a joint workshop to talk about what the PIs were, how you
calculate the PIs and so on.
There was a workshop a couple of weeks ago down in Atlanta,
an internal workshop to talk about the significance determination
process for inspectors. There is a workshop next week which is a joint
NEI, joint industry-NRC workshop to talk about the entire process. We
are aiming for mid-level industry managers and NRC managers, to get them
across the table sitting around talking about the issues that we expect
will come out, to smooth implementation.
We began a pilot process in June that will last until
December. We will have a further round of workshops, one held in each
of the regions, to really do outreach, to get to the licensees so they
can show up, but also to get to members of the public, to allow them to
come in each of the regional offices to the extent they are able to, to
talk about the process in a week-long workshop.
We complete the pilot process, implement changes and then we
expect that we are going to begin getting information reported to us in
January of 2000, and we will complete the first annual assessment in
April of 2001. So that is the approach that we are taking and the
course that we are on.
We have done some additional things in terms of outreach,
trying to get to the internal stakeholders. We recognize that this is a
fundamental change for inspectors, a fundamental philosophical change.
And so we have, for example, established a change coalition, a
coalition, a subset of folks in the regional offices, in the program
office who are opinion leaders, who can go out, who we brought in to
help them understand the process, and then we want them to go out and
help facilitate that process to get feedback and to feed that feedback
to us. We have had that underway now for a couple of months and we have
gotten great returns from that.
In addition, we are going to have local -- we are going to
have meetings in the vicinity at a number of sites. I think we are
thinking about -- I have seen scheduled now five sites, but we are going
to try to get to sites in the vicinity of these pilot plants where we
have an evening meeting, where we invite people, the local citizens, to
come out and talk to us about the revised oversight process and to raise
concerns and to talk about how we are proceeding.
So we have done -- we have planned quite a bit of outreach
in that aspect. There is an entire communication plan. Unfortunately,
I wasn't smart enough, forward looking enough to bring that today, but
we have really gone and thought about how we need to work with the
internal stakeholders and the external stakeholders in terms of making
this change come to pass.
DR. GARRICK: Thank you. George.
DR. HORNBERGER: Mike, what group or groups do you envision
to be the customers of your web page and how are you testing it with
this group or groups to ensure that the information is being
MR. JOHNSON: The customers of the web page we think are
going to be licensees. They are going to be members of the public, real
members of the public. I am sorry now that I put emphasis on "real,"
because we also expect David Lochbaum, for example, is going to be very
interested, Public Citizen. There are people who are more attuned to --
geez, I am so sorry I said that.
MR. JOHNSON: Let me just say members of the public will be
attuned to the web page.
We have gotten calls. We have had, from the Office of
Affairs, a number of interactions with us in terms of our existing
processes. Members of local and state governments, for example, we
expect that they are going to be attuned to this web page and trying to
get in and understand the information.
We have developed the input tool to get PIs in. We haven't
yet developed the output tool, what this web page is going to actually
look like, but when we do, we will do what we have done with the other
remaining parts of this process. We will hold a series of meetings,
public meetings, and we will show the web page and we will get input on
how the web page out to look and what would be nice to have on that web
page, those kinds of things.
DR. HORNBERGER: In addition to just having public meetings,
I would think that on something like this, you would actually want to
beta test it in some form, that is, actually have people use the web
page, not just hear about it. Is that in the plans?
MR. JOHNSON: Actually, we have plans for beta testing, but
probably more limited beta testing. Well, we probably hadn't thought
about, or haven't yet planned to do beta testing for all of the
stakeholders, and that is a good idea. We ought to work on that, and
that is something I will take back from this.
DR. GARRICK: Any other questions? Staff, any questions?
DR. GARRICK: Thank you very much. Very interesting. Even
though it was substitute people and a little of a substitute message.
MR. JOHNSON: Thanks.
DR. GARRICK: All right. I guess we are a little behind, so
we will do our best to catch up. Our next people is going to be
Isabelle Schoenfeld from Research and she is going to talk about a risk
communication project under a cooperative agreement with the University
of Wisconsin, Madison.
DR. SCHOENFELD: Good morning. I am going to be talking
about research that's in progress that's being conducted by Professor
Vicki Bier, who is director of the Center for Human Performance in
Complex Systems at the University of Wisconsin. And the focus of this
project is to look at risk communication to the public and risk
communication to decision makers, that is primarily internal within the
Agency, but decision makers outside the Agency as well.
The project got started about a year ago, and soon after its
start we held a one-day workshop at the University of Wisconsin with
subject matter experts in these two areas, that is, risk communication
to the public and to decision makers. The were eight subject-matter
experts who broke into four in each group, public and decision makers,
and they got a number of questions ahead of time, and those questions
were addressed during the workshop. I'll just show you a list of who
those participants were so you have some idea. They had expertise, as
you see, in different areas and were affiliated with different
organizations and universities.
We produced a summary of the workshop that was made
available as a letter report sort of highlighting the conclusions from
this day's work.
Following the workshop we then went to -- rather Vicki Bier
produced an annotated bibliography on risk communication, and this
annotated bibliography was actually a supplement to a bibliography that
the Society for Risk Analysis had produced in 1995 for industry
practitioners. Her supplement focused on information available since
1995 and also focused more on Government practitioners.
Since then we have received a draft of a summary of the
state of the art on risk communication to the public and a draft on
summary of the state of the art on risk communication to decision
makers. These summaries are essentially a summary of the findings -- of
the workshop and the findings and go into more detail than our annotated
bibliography does in particular important areas related to risk
The major areas addressed in the summary for risk
communication to the public are these areas. They are primarily reports
of empirical research, and what I'd like to do is just to provide you
with some highlights from that summary. These are not recommendations
nor suggestions that I'll be discussing, but just findings of the
research that appears in these summaries.
The first area on format of risk communication messages,
firstly, a major conclusion is that there is very little definitive
results regarding format of risk communication messages because of the
small number of studies or because of ambiguous results. And this seems
to be the case in most of the areas regarding risk communication. It's
just a very immature research area, and a lot of the information that we
have is -- well, it's from empirical research, but small studies, or
it's from anecdotal information or based on people's experiences.
The research we've looked at, qualitative versus
quantitative and command versus control, brochure versus
computer-mediated communication, and no single presentation format
appears to be the best. The preferred format varies depending on
whether the purpose of the risk communication is to educate, to affect
risk perceptions, or to motivate people to take appropriate action,
though verbal or graphical representation probabilities may be easier to
understand than numerical values and may reduce the tendency to
overemphasize small probabilities by effectively illustrating how small
they are. However, there was large variability in the interpretation of
probabilistic phrases such as "highly unlikely." And there are other
areas in a probabilistic discipline that is hard to interpret for the
public, to be understandable to the public in the way that they are
So it is important to pilot-test risk communication messages
before they're used, since the general guidance on how to best structure
them is not sufficiently available. That's one of the lessons we learn
from this research.
The other area, use of risk comparisons, what the research
says is that risk communicators may be tempted to compare the risk of a
rare event such as core melt at a nuclear power plant with the risk of
being struck by lightning or the loss of life expectancy due to smoking
a pack of cigarettes a day. However, it is difficult to identify
suitable risk comparisons, and they need to be used with caution.
In addition, particular comparisons may be considered
acceptable when used by, for example, a university professor to further
understanding, but less so when used by an organization to justify an
Hence, it's difficult to identify suitable risk comparisons,
and even seemingly reasonable comparisons can serve to increase the
perceived risk of a particular hazard if there is a distrust of the
entity giving that information.
Finally, the acceptability of risk comparisons may depend
not only on the nature of the comparison itself but also on the purpose
for which it is used.
Concerning differences in risk perception amongst different
audiences, the evidence regarding differences in both attitudes and
knowledge about risks highlights the importance of assessing what your
intended audience already knows or believes about a particular issue.
For example, this can be done through focus groups, public information
officers, surveys, or already published information.
In addition, one needs to consider the socioeconomic
differences. There is something called the white male effect, which is
that white men -- research has reported that white men tend to judge
risks as smaller and less problematic than women or nonwhites. White
males with the lowest risk ratings tend to be well educated, well off
financially, and relatively conservative politically.
DR. GARRICK: That about says it.
DR. SCHOENFELD: In addition, if the hazards predominate in
low-income areas, those most affected by the risks may possess the
fewest resources, and therefore may be the least likely to participate
in the risk communication process. Special attention may be required
therefore to ensure that their concerns are fully addressed.
People who are highly motivated are likely to learn more
from the message than people for whom the information is less salient.
While it may be impossible to gain agreement of all the interest groups,
carrying out risk communication in a way that indicates a desire to
consider the various viewpoints of concerned citizens can help to
maintain trust and credibility. Hence, there appears to be no
one-size-fits-all risk communication effort.
Concerning mental models in risk communication, there are
three barriers that have been identified in the literature regarding
risk communication. One is lack of mental models, that is, how people
understand and view various phenomena. Two, a lack of familiarity with
a particular concept or a term. And, three, the existence of
Risk communication messages based on mental models are more
effective at conveying both general knowledge and also information about
risk-reduction strategies. Assessing what your intended audience
already knows or believes about a particular issue is clearly important
in designing effective risk communication messages. Some methods to
assess this is through focus groups, consulting with public information
officers, as we said earlier, or others who regularly interact with
members of the general public, and relying on public information about
Risk communication messages based on a particular mental
model of the phenomena being discussed convey information more
effectively, it is found, than mere collection of facts and concepts.
An explanation designed to clarify the meaning of a
particular term should ideally include along with the definition a
variety of examples illustrating what the term does but also what the
term does not mean. The intended audience for a risk communication
message may already hold misconceptions about the specific hazard, and
hence may find the information being conveyed implausible or difficult
to understand. When a significant misconception exists, it is important
to address it explicitly by pointing out why the misconception may seem
intuitively plausible, why it is flawed, and then present the expert
viewpoint along with an explanation of why it fits with the facts than
merely presenting the correct information right up front.
Another challenge, as we said earlier, in risk communication
is the complexity of the subject matter to be conveyed. Some
researchers advocate a problem-solving approach in which the first task
is to identify the most important problem or problems to be overcome by
the risk communication message. The message can then be designed with
those specific challenges in mind. All too often, commonly known facts
may be repeated, while potentially useful ones are presented without the
In addition, it is often helpful to structure messages using
a concept map of the phenomena being described. That is a spatial
representation for each concept. For example, circles and arrows charts
that show how various ideas are related to each other. Essentially it's
graphically portraying the mental model.
Some researchers promote a constructivist approach to
surveys as an alternative to traditional surveys to elicit attitudes
about complex problems. Constructivist survey methods help people think
through the questions they are being asked to respond to, and in so
doing construct their values, beliefs, and preferences rather than
expect respondents to already have preestablished views on the subject.
Concerning credibility and trust in risk communication, as
we know, trust is easier to destroy than to create, and negative events
carry much greater weight than positive events.
Risk communication methods and decision making processes
should be explicitly designed to function effectively in situations of
distrust. Some strategies are when the audience has various concerns or
negative impressions, one must begin by listening to them before giving
information. Attempting to convey new information before understanding
which concerns are important to one's audience may suggest to them that
those concerns are not being taken seriously or are being dismissed as
misguided. It may be constructive to create mechanisms by which
concerned individuals can monitor potentially challenging situations as
another way to establish credibility and trust, or the ultimate solution
to situations of distrust is direct stakeholder participation in the
process of decision making.
We go to stakeholder participation process. Again, there's
little empirical evidence on how to structure stakeholder participation
processes which are most appropriate for which situations. Much of the
research has been qualitative or anecdotal.
As I was saying, much of the research has been qualitative
or anecdotal, that is, evaluations of a specific stakeholder process
rather than comparisons of multiple processes. There's not yet
agreement on the appropriate measures of success for stakeholder
participation processes. There is recommendation that -- or it's a need
for further studies on the membership selection processes, for example,
for citizen advisory councils, the role of the facilitators, the methods
by which agendas are set, role of independent experts, methods by which
the CACs can be held accountable to the public, methods of feedback from
sponsor to CAC, and the purpose of CACs as perceived by members and
However, there are a few basic rules of thumb about
stakeholder participation. The organization should not attempt
stakeholder participation without a true commitment to the process.
That is, going through the motions of stakeholder participation will
simply increase the hostility that might be there.
Important to clarify the audience's role to all concerned
early in the process, that is, it is important to distinguish between
the role of the stakeholder is decisional, consultative, or
A needs assessment, that is, the purpose of the risk
communication effort, the characteristics of the audience, what methods
to assess the audience knowledge and attitudes about the subject matter
is a critical part of any planning process for stakeholder
participation, that is, two-way exchange of information to elicit what
various publics believe they need and want to know.
I'll now address the findings regarding the empirical
research and risk communication and decision makers, which in this area
there is even less research than in risk communication to the public.
The research indicates that aims and objectives of risk
communication to decision makers need to take into consideration the
needs of the senior managers for risk assessment information. These
might include the applicability and usefulness of the assessment for
public policy decision making should be clearly stated, the presentation
must be credible and fully defensible, the basis for the choice of
critical scientific assumptions should be described, along with
discussion and resolution of issues as far as possible.
Risk analysis should provide a variety of risk measures, as
well as a clear statement of uncertainties. It could be a discussion of
the legal requirements and the available options for reducing the risk.
The extent of concern about the issue on the part of various
groups is also useful information for senior managers. Risk
communication briefings should address both quantitative and qualitative
descriptions of risk, and should include key uncertainties. Risk
communication should be proactive, helping decision makers identify the
most likely public responses to the various decision options under
Diagnostic feedback and mechanisms for early warnings and
quick adjustments to permit mid-course corrections if a particular
decision or program does not seem to be working as well as anticipated
is an important need.
Finally, two-way communication between assessors and users
is important, and therefore recommend conferring with senior managers
before risk analysis is actually performed to determine how the results
will be used and which questions most need to be answered.
Regarding treatment of uncertainty and variability and
correlation, decision making based on explicit statement of uncertainty
has numerous advantages over decision making based purely on point
estimates, the research shows. Taking uncertainty into account will
lead to a better decision than ignoring the uncertainty and relying on a
single point estimate. Decision theory provides guidance on whether it
is preferable to make decisions or gather more information or to defer
the decision until the information is available. One important use of
risk analysis is that it includes an explicit statement of uncertainties
as to assist in determining whether additional research is needed.
It also helps to clarify the concept of the value of the
information, and there is a distinction between outcome uncertainty,
that is, what might actually happen, and with what probability, and
assessment uncertainty, how much the results of the analysis might
change with additional information.
Population variability, that is related to outcome
uncertainty, and state of knowledge uncertainty, which is related to
assessment uncertainty, for example, when the plants or facilities in a
population differ a great deal from each other, that is, there is high
population variability, but the risk at each one is accurately known, so
there is our low state of knowledge uncertainty, then it makes sense to
talk of regulatory efforts at the facilities with the highest estimated
risks. Hence, risk analysis results can be used to prioritize
Finally, there is little research on effective methods of
communicating risk analysis results to decision makers. Hence, it's
important to pilot-test communication messages and approaches wherever
possible. Even informal evaluations or anecdotal information on
effective and ineffective approaches to risk communication can be
valuable, since the understanding in the field is at a relatively early
Regarding format of risk communication messages to decision
makers, briefing should ideally begin with an overview of why the
action, that is, the regulatory decision under consideration, is
important, who cares about the information, and what the major
stakeholders are saying. The technical portion of the risk
communication should discuss the level of confidence in the data and
where the data gaps are.
Overly complex formats with more detail than needed to make
decisions and overly simplistic presentations were found to be
Rather than an emphasis on statistical methods, decision
makers are likely to want more information about the qualitative
assumptions underlying the analysis and the reasons for the results.
We had a paper submitted by an NRC staff person, Doug Hull.
He's a senior risk analyst, and he made the following several points.
He believes that results of a PRA should be presented in a manner that
places risk-important SSCs -- that is, structures, systems, and
components -- into an accident sequence context that reveals their risk
relationship to other SSCs, helps to reveal accident sequences in terms
of their penetration through specific layers of defense in depth in a
manner that shows how and where PRA uses traditional engineering
analyses, that is, success criteria and its influence on the results.
Another researcher who has worked at NRC, Bly, suggests the
use of event sequence diagrams to graphically describe the steps leading
to a particular type of accident sequence. With an appropriate computer
implementation, he suggests, the approach could let users click on
elements of the overall event sequence diagram to obtain additional
relevant information such as systems schematics and descriptions of
operator actions. Such an approach would reduce the emphasis on
numerical results and statistics in presenting risk analyses results and
instead focus attention on the physical phenomena responsible for the
However, in conclusion, the best presentation format may
vary depending on the disciplinary background of the intended audience.
Hence, once again, pilot-testing of different presentation formats could
be very important for decision makers as well as for the public.
And finally I'd just like to say that the reports I'm
discussing today are providing a technical basis for us to establish
guidelines that can be used by the NRC staff in communicating risk, both
externally and internally.
Our next step in this research is to have a needs assessment
protocol which we will apply to the NRC Staff to find out what their
risk communication needs are. Following that will be the development of
the guidelines. Thank you.
DR. GARRICK: Any questions?
DR. FAIRHURST: Do you know of any examples where risk to
public had had a severely wrong impression of something and where a risk
communication program had significantly changed their perceptions?
DR. SCHOENFELD: That's a good question. I don't know of
any. Perhaps EPA, the speaker from EPA will provide some examples of
that. A lot of the literature actually is information that was derived
from a lot of the EPA programs but I could not give you an example of
DR. WYMER: I have a sort of general observation. It seems
to me that risk communication or any communication is basically a matter
of human interactions. The personality of the interacter or the
communicators it seems to me plays a key role because either he is
believed or he isn't, he or she is believed or isn't believed.
DR. SCHOENFELD: Right.
DR. WYMER: And I guess to cite a kind of anecdotal example,
certainly the evangelists that we see are some of the most effective
communicators that there are anywhere and so it seems to me that
somewhere in all of this, which is technical and formal and what you
would expect out of a bunch of academics --
DR. GARRICK: Do you know any evangelists who are nuclear
DR. WYMER: I know some that would claim to be -- just like
DR. WYMER: So it seems to me that somewhere in here there
ought to be a recognition of the human.
DR. SCHOENFELD: Right. My understanding is that the agency
is developing training modules for people in the agency who will be in a
position of communicating risk information, and those modules are being
DR. GARRICK: I think one of the things that Ray may be
getting to is what are we going to use to test the utility or the
usefulness of the research. What kind of pilot programs are envisioned
for interacting with the public?
DR. SCHOENFELD: Right, well, you are ahead of me on this
research. There are lots of different risk communication efforts and
just public communication efforts going on in the agency. On this
research results there will be pilot testing of the guidelines after
they are developed but we have not yet designed -- the guideline
development and pilot testing and the implementation, et cetera, is a
separate research effort from this, from our present scope.
DR. GARRICK: Okay. George?
DR. HORNBERGER: Isabelle, perhaps it is a white male
syndrome but we talk a lot about risk comparisons and trying to figure
out how to convey information a risk-comparison basis.
DR. SCHOENFELD: Right.
DR. HORNBERGER: And yet I think we have been somewhat aware
of the warning that you brought here again to us today that these things
don't tend to work.
Is there some way that we could work toward conveying such
information? I mean EPA now talks about risk harmonization and NRC,
which inherently involves comparisons.
DR. SCHOENFELD: I think that when we get into the stage of
the guideline development, we will get more specific information on what
is applicable to the NRC environment. A lot of what you heard is
because of the structure of a cooperative agreement is information and
research that is applicable to many environments, but it is in the
guideline development stage that we will be more specific about NRC's
use and I would hope that we will get more information on what
comparisons work in our environment at that point.
DR. GARRICK: Okay. Any questions? Staff? Lynn?
DR. GARRICK: All right. Thank you very much.
DR. SCHOENFELD: Thank you.
DR. GARRICK: Our final presentation from the NRC is going
to be from Mal Knapp, Deputy Executive Director for Regulatory
MR. KNAPP: Good morning. My voice may not be everything we
would like it to be this morning. I will ask your indulgence a bit.
I have just a few slides. I would like to talk about
communications activities across the agency and you will note that the
title of this slide is, "Communications Activities" rather than
I don't think that the activities that we have, a number of
which are a result of initiatives in various offices have yet coalesced
to the point where I can say in good conscience that we have a
well-constructed program, but we are communicating more with each other,
and I will talk a little bit about that. I will talk a little about
communication from an overall agency perspective.
This will be kind of a broad brush and I will be happy to go
into more detail if you like.
The first thought that we have is that I am sure you are
aware of the various what we might today call performance goals or
outcome goals that have been identified by NRR and in the Office of
Research the High Level Waste Program, one of which is increasing public
I would assert that public communications and public
confidence are inextricably linked and that the former is really a means
to increase confidence in the latter, so when we look at public
communications and we look at the outcome goals associated with public
confidence, I think we need to put those together and that is something
we will be doing on more of an agency basis. As we run these goals up
to the Commission, I think the Commission is favorably inclined towards
the goals, but those will begin to become drivers I think for some of
our public communications activities.
When I became Deputy I inherited the responsibility for
public communications and as a part of that the plain language
activities, according to the direction of the President last July, and
more recently Bill Travers and I have agreed that I will also be
responsible for internal communications as well as public
Internal communications take on a fairly important role as
the culture change which we are going through goes through the agency
and we want to communicate such things as the new reactor oversight
process or the performance or outcome goals that are being developed to
To support me in this for this year I have been allotted one
full time person, and that is Louise Lund, who is over there in the
green suit, and most of the good things you will hear about in the next
10 or 15 minutes I would like to take credit for but Louise deserves the
credit. She has in fact done the work.
One of the things that I would like to do and were I to come
back and discuss this with you in say six months or a year, I would tell
you that we have a systematic approach to communications. We have a
uniform program that deals both with internal and external
communications in the agency and that all the parts worth smoothly
At this point we are still bringing a number of these
initiatives together, and what I will talk about a little more this
morning is how that is going to happen with the Communications
Activities Group that I will use briefly to give you a sense of all the
communications activities that are going on. I will talk a little bit
about the public communications initiatives that resulted from the
strategic assessment and rebaselining, and the implementation plan in
response to those which is before the Commission as we speak, and then
finally a bit about the plain language action plan which is responsive
to the President's direction.
In the second slide we talk a little bit about the
Communications Activities Group. Right now there are about eight areas
or organizations that are involved in these. The first two you have
heard about this morning and of course the third is the one that Lynn is
active in. The fourth is the one that Louise and I are involved in, in
implementing the DSI and plain language guidance. The fourth area is
work being done in the Office of Public Affairs -- Bill Beecher, Mindy
Landau. The fifth is internal communications, at this point largely
done by EDO's office and for which I picking up the responsibility or
have within the last couple of weeks. The Publishing Services Branch
under Walt Oliu is involved in communications in a variety of areas,
among them the websites that the NRC has.
Finally we are having work done by Chip Cameron in the
Office of General Counsel. I am sure you are aware of Chip's skills in
public involvement, and Chip is going to be putting together a Public
Involvement Handbook. That handbook will I think address a couple of
the concerns I heard just in the last few minutes when I came in as to
how we might better interact with people.
Principally in public meetings, how we might -- part of it
will also be drawing on some of the work that Isabelle has done into how
we can better communicate risk.
More specifically, I believe that Chip will have the
handbook -- our target for completion is the end of this calendar year.
He is going to be doing that with some contractor assistance, and that
should then be used, will be available to train folks that are going to
be involved in that activity. How much training we will do at this
point is still under discussion, because this particular year we have a
great deal of training to do associated with change and how much we will
be able to devote to this activity, this particular training, isn't
really clear yet.
Let's see if there's anything else on this slide that is
particularly necessary. If you have no questions, I think I will just
go on to the next slide.
This is the Public Communications Initiative, sometimes
referred to as DSI-14. The source of the initiative is that after the
Commission gave us the direction to proceed, Chip Cameron and Bill
Beecher headed a team that put together a number of suggestions. These
went to the Commission last summer. The Commission like what they saw
and directed the Staff to put together an implementation plan, which we
did -- more accurately I would say Louise with the help of a number of
This was provided to the Commission in March. We do not yet
have an SRM but the votes I understand are pretty much in and they seem
to be favorable. As soon as that is the case we will continue with the
implementation plan and I will be more than happy as soon as we can to
share a copy with the ACNW.
Some of the things in the plan that might be of interest,
there are five principal areas which you can see on the slide. I will
just mention one or two items under these.
Under Clarity and Timeliness of Communications, the Plain
Language Initiative fits under there, which we will be discussing
shortly. There is direction that we will have -- some of these may seem
kind of simple but they are kind of important. We will create a
glossary of technical terms so that we can communicate better, and there
will be more emphasis on communicating clearly. Instead of saying "1 e
to the minus 5" we might say "one part in one hundred thousand" --
things that we would like to move more and more in the direction of
presuming that our readership is intelligent but not familiar with the
NRC jargon and acronyms and not necessarily familiar with all the
There will be a number of activities. We are going to be
using more and more plain English in executive summaries of our
technical reports. We are going to have more coordination with the
Office of Public Affairs as to how we can communicate clearly.
In the public involvement process among the steps we are
going to take, I think you are aware that when the agency proceeds
toward a rulemaking, we initiate that with a rulemaking plan. We are
going to be considering more and more in the development of a rulemaking
plan how during the rulemaking itself we should decide to involve the
public. Would we have an enhanced participatory process? Would we take
advantage of the website by putting up drafts of a rule early? These
decisions will be made more and more at the outset of rulemaking rather
than on perhaps, as it occasionally has happened, an ad hoc basis during
This is also the area that the public involvement handbook,
that I mentioned earlier that Chip is developing, will reside.
With respect to responsiveness to public inquiry, we try to
be responsive. We are not always as responsive as we would like to be
or as timely as we would like to be, and a part of this effort is just
to ensure that we are fully responsive and, in some cases, for example,
when we cannot respond in a timely way for technical or policy reasons,
at least we communicate with the person and let them know what we are
doing and why we are doing.
I am just giving you one or two items under these various
areas there. In fact, some are in the neighborhood of 30 initiatives
that were originally considered and we have I believe 14 specific
activities in the implementation plan.
With respect to public access to information, there are a
number of changes with the advent of ATOMS and moving more into
electronic information exchange. This is having an impact on the public
document rooms and the local public document rooms. This is where this
will be addressed.
With respect to outreach, we are doing a number of things.
Public Affairs is developing a centralized audio-visual library so that
we will have materials that are available to make our presentations more
clear. We are going to develop some standardized presentations, again,
with the ability to communicate clearly with the public.
One of the things they have worked on this area which you
might want to take a look at some point, if you turn to the NRC web
site, there is a student teacher corner, and if you were to thumb
through that, you would find that that is a pretty clear product.
With respect to our web sites in general, again, I will be
candid, right now it is a mixed bag. If you go through our web site, it
may not be as easy to navigate as you would like in some areas. There
are some areas which I think are very well done and some areas which
need a lot of attention. And one of the activities that I will be
engaged is trying to set certain -- by the way, Walt Oliu is doing some
good work on setting some standards, but our intent is that in the not
too distant future, you will find the NRC web site is more easy to
navigate and that the information is -- there is sounder information in
there. Frankly, some of our pages are now a couple of years out of date
and we need to ensure that we are current in those pages.
Moving on to the -- if there are no real questions, moving
on to the next slide. One aspect of this which is kind of interesting
is the plain language action plan. Last year the President directed
that all federal agencies would move in the direction of plain language.
He directed us to do such things as use easy to read design features,
common everyday words, active voice, use you and we as opposed to the
agency says and does. Use short sentences, use logical organization.
This does not sound to me like rocket science, but those of
you that have read federal publications will be well aware that it will
have a salutary effect to write this way.
DR. GARRICK: Not relevant to nuclear safety, but do you
suppose he talked to the IRS about the same subject?
MR. KNAPP: In filling out my return for this year, I didn't
see what I would call strong evidence of that. But as a matter of face,
he did, and one of the things that is worth noting is that he also
talked to the Securities and Exchange Commission. And this is a book
which they put out, which we have, with their support, taken and are
using with our staff, a plain English handbook. Bottom line is it was a
lot easier to borrow theirs than to try to write our own, a lot more
One of the things that I think about with the plain language
in general is we have to recognize the agency has a lot of activities
going on, there is a lot of change, and while I want to be very
responsive to the President, and I want us to address these issues, we
also have to strike a balance between simply overloading the staff with
everything else that is going on this year. So what we have tried to do
is to move in the direction, without using too many resources to do it.
And one of them has been to use the plain language handbook.
Another has been to use more of a carrot, if you like, than
a stick. We are moving more to sell this. Louise is going around to --
I think by the time she is done, she will have visited just about
everybody in the agency and talked to them a bit about plain language
and made copies of this handbook available. We have information on the
We are not trying for perfection here. We think that you
can make a major difference with making -- putting an awful lot of work
into it. And this is not unlike, in fact, what the President, the Vice
President are doing. The Vice President puts out a no gobbledygook
award each month for a product which is particularly clearly written.
And as a matter of fact, we submitted an entry which,
although a decision has not been made, it has been well received, and
this is a primer which NRR put out on their new oversight process. This
is another item, if you would like to see something clearly written, we
think it is very well done. We have gotten compliments from the public,
and you can find that on the web site as well.
That, by and large, is where we are on the communications
activities from an agency basis. I would be happy to answer any
questions that you might have.
DR. GARRICK: You talked about that what you were going to
talk about was activities, and I guess you implied by that that this
will evolve into some fundamental program. Can you tell us a little bit
about when that might happen and what it might be?
MR. KNAPP: Well, I went to be very careful here. The
implementation plan which we have put together has many of these
individual activities in it. And with respect to external
communication, I will argue that we pretty well do have a program right
The concern that I have is, for example, the work that
Isabelle told you about should be included in the handbook that Chip is
writing. I will feel that we have a program when I am confident that --
and, by the way, that communication is occurring and that will happen.
I am not confident at this point that all of the players are as fully
engaged with each other as they should be to make this, if you like
effective and efficient. And since that is --
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MR. KNAPP: That is my interest. What I anticipate is this,
two areas where I think we have work to do. One, I am not confident
that our internal communication at this point is everything that it is
going to have to be. We have done a number of things, we have had a
number of meetings. We have talked to the staff. But the fact is that
when we go through the culture change that the agency is engaged in, one
of the things that the people that the people that have talked to us in
the past have said, or that have gone through this, is that we tend to
underestimate the amount of resources, the amount of management time,
and the amount of communication necessary to make this change
I don't think at this point we are putting enough energy and
enough creative though into communicating the culture change. That is
one area where until we have that -- and, frankly, I am not even sure
what that should be. This is not intended as a criticism of what we
have done, it is a recognition that we are still ourselves as we go
through the process, and what we sometimes call the Arthur Andersen
process. We are still learning what some of these changes are going to
This is expected to be probably a three to five year
process. It is one where we are going to need to involve all levels of
management and the staff. And to communicate to make that work is
something that is still under development.
The other thing that we need to, for example, we do not --
we recognize that we have a problem with our web site. We do not at
this point have a plan in place where I can tell you by date X we are
all going to be in lock step and by date Y the web site is going to be
something that will reflect a great deal of credit on the agency. Until
we have things like that, then I am not going to be convinced that we
have what I will call an internal and external communications program.
But I think people are working well together. I think there
is a lot of enthusiasm. In fact, there is a lot of individual
initiatives which we are coordinating.
I would estimate -- well, I won't actually estimate, I think
Louise and I have an agreement that before she finishes her tenure at
the end of the fiscal year, we will have a communications program
agency-wide up and running, so I think that is what I can tell y about
that. But I can't really tell you exactly how it is going to look
because we are still learning ourselves.
DR. GARRICK: Okay. Questions?
DR. FAIRHURST: Yes. With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
being what it says, regulatory and with litigation being always sort of
the one just hiding behind the corner of anything, the use of the
language is extremely litigiously directed or dominated, and so do you
have -- are you going to attempt to put that into plain English? Or are
you going to have caveats which say, if in doubt as to what we meant,
please consult the back of the agreement or whatever? You know, how do
you deal with that?
DR. GARRICK: Is the Office of the General Counsel really on
DR. FAIRHURST: Well, that is what I was quite fascinated
MR. KNAPP: I am sure that Chip Cameron will be anxious to
speak to that. And I couldn't think of a better way to set him up right
MR. KNAPP: And, actually, Chip, you can correct me, but
actually the fact is --
DR. FAIRHURST: It is a real serious issue.
MR. KNAPP: It is a legitimate question and that is
addressed, in part, in this SEC handbook in the following way. They had
this very problem. The reason that they wrote the handbook was the
Securities & Exchange Commission was putting together stuff that nobody
could understand, and I certainly would not say the lawyers in SEC were
the only folks, everybody was concerned about making sure that we were
completely -- they were completed covered, the language was right,
touched all the bases.
What they began to find was you could still do that and
write it in a way that was understandable. You could still write it in
short sentence, you could still make it clear. It is, if you like, a
habit that can be overcome.
MR. KNAPP: And the fact is, we are working with OGC and
Karen Cyr, General Counsel, is very supportive, and I think we are going
to make this thing work. In fact, if Karen were here, probably the
first thing she would tell you is that much of the difficulty that you
have in understanding things comes to OGC that way and they are not --
if you like, they are trying to clarify some of the products that we
I have to give you a mea culpa. I mean I have written or
contributed to my share of regulations, and I know that I have written
60 and 70 word sentences. In fact, those of you have that have looked
at Part 60 would probably agree there could be a little more clarity
here and there perhaps in some of the parts.
Your point is very well taken, and it is something we are
going to have to pay attention to.
But one of the things we are finding out, at least from the
experience of others, is that it is not any harder to write in plain
language. You do not have to write it in a complicated way and make it
simple. You can start and write it simple, and once you get used to it,
it turns out to be easier.
So I can't promise how it will come out. I can tell you
that there is no interest in the agency in going back over existing
regulation and attempting to rewrite them, because the problem that you
described, that is, if we change it and then that has some sort of a
ripple effect on subsequent -- on decisions made after the rule was
promulgated, but prior to a rewrite, that is a direction we don't want
to go. But we are going to be looking very hard at every new regulation
to see that they are written in plain language, that's one of the
charges that the folks in admin have, and that's one of the reasons that
Louise has, early on, talked to the people who are presently most
actively involved in writing regs.
DR. GARRICK: Ray?
DR. WYMER: Well, maybe I can further ingratiate myself to
the people that are involved in this communication issue.
I did think, incidentally, that this, what I referred to as
a bunch of academics, came up with a lot of good points. I just thought
that the business of personality of communicator was about equally as
important as all the other stuff put together.
But I want to discuss the web site issue. I was pleased to
hear that you are going to update the web site. I think it will
probably be very effective with respect to internal communication with
the web site, with its improvements, but externally if you are talking
about what we refer to as the public, the number of hits you are going
to get on your web site as a fraction of the number of people out there
that you really were trying to communicate I suspect will be extremely
small. In the first place, they don't even know what the web site is or
how to access it, so I wouldn't put too much reliance on that. It seems
to me that there ought to be a parallel effort, totally independent of
electronic activities, that we try to get out to them equally strongly,
with as much effort.
MR. KNAPP: I agree, but you -- under your comment, that
raises a whole series of questions that we need to wrestle with.
For example, one of our outcome goals is increase public
confidence. What public are we talking about?
DR. WYMER: That's the point.
MR. KNAPP: We could spend the entire agency budget, and we
wouldn't touch what would amount to, I think, what they spend on Super
DR. WYMER: Have you identified your public?
MR. KNAPP: We are still identifying, and I can make -- I
can identify a variety of them. You know, for example, we could say
everybody that lives within the EPZ around reactors. We could add
everybody that lives in the near -- you pick what you mean by the word
near -- Yucca Mountain, our low level waste site, or an SDMP site. You
could pick everybody that lives along the route where we are going to be
transporting spent fuel or high level waste. And I am not again sure
exactly when we want to increase public confidence. For example, there
are obviously going to be people at both ends of the spectrum that we
are unlikely to convince, and so the question might arise, okay, who do
we really want to convince? You heard me earlier think of a target as
an intelligent person who is simply not familiar with the way NRC does
One of the tests we put to ourselves is a very simple one:
Suppose someone were to tell you that they had decided that it made good
sense to store biological weapons about two miles from your house. I
don't know about you, but I think I'd probably go to the public meeting
on that and try to find out exactly how safe I was going to be.
One of the things where I think we may have a bit of a blind
spot within the agency is we are quite familiar with a number of aspects
of risks, and we tend to forget that the public does not have that.
Just as we would be concerned about biological weapon storage, they are
concerned about spent fuel storage or about an SDMP site. And I think
to try to better put ourselves in the position of those members of the
public -- in other words, deal with again -- recognize we are never
going to reach everyone, but there is a group out there that we can and
should attempt to reach. We are still defining that group.
DR. GARRICK: One of the things that you keep referring to
now that's very important is this business of the cultural change.
MR. KNAPP: Yes.
DR. GARRICK: And, of course, the topic we are involved in
here is a part of that cultural change, the whole business of risk, of
which risk communication is part of that taxonomy is a driver in the
agency moving in the direction of a more risk-informed approach to
What other issues do you see as being major parts of the
cultural change that are complicating our ability to find resources to
get to some of these issues?
MR. KNAPP: There are two that I think that are particularly
significant. Looking at what Reactors has done as they have changed
their oversight process -- well, let me start perhaps with a fundamental
one, and this is the Commission's movement in the direction of
risk-informed, performance-based regulation. If you take a look at what
NRR was doing a year ago and you look at the changes that they are
making, I think you could say that they are very consistent with the
Commission's approach to risk-informed, performance-based regulation. I
am not going to take a lot of time and reiterate the setting the SALP
process aside, changing the way that the senior management meeting is
operating, but this is a whole different approach to oversight, and it's
a link up between inspection and oversight, enforcement is taking a
different role, as you are aware. Level 4 violations have taken a very
different path than they had a year ago, and this is a real change.
This is we are focusing on what is really important to safety. That's
And Carl Paperiello, in about November something, had a
similar -- he had an all-hands meeting both at headquarters and with the
regional folks, and he is taking similar directions with respect to
licensing and enforcement in the materials program. It's not the same
thing, but again it's a recognition that we need to make some of these
changes. That's one type of change.
Another type of change which we might call -- again, you've
heard it with Arthur Andersen, PBPM, performance goals, outcome goals,
but it's a concept of moving towards an outcome rather than an
output-based set of goals for the agency, and one of the things I think
folks don't tend to think about very much, in my view, this is a big
change. As recently as the strategic assessment work that I was
involved in three to four years ago, the idea that the agency would base
its reputation success on outcomes was foreign, because we can't control
outcomes. We can control outputs, but we cannot really control what a
licensee does. We can affect it, but we can't control it.
And so moving towards outcomes, where we are judged not only
on our success but the success of those that we license, that is a big
difference, and that is going to drive a different way of looking at
things. And when we look at these outcomes, we are going to be less --
well, for example, if we look at enforcement, we might have said that a
good goal for enforcement a year ago is we will complete 95 percent of
our cases within six weeks or three months or something like that.
Maybe we should have another goal which says what goal -- or asks what
goal shall we have for enforcement that says licensees as a whole will
be more safe, what goal do we set to reach that? It may be such things
as whether the licensees are seen to change their activities; as a
result of the enforcement process, there are fewer violations in a
particular area in the future. We haven't thought that far ahead. We
are still in this change. But it will be a significant cultural change
to look at outcome rather than output.
There are two other changes which are not really cultural,
but they are substantive in the agency, that are affecting us this year.
One, to move to the eight-to-one staff ratio. We have just gone through
a substantive organization of most of our offices, and that takes
management and staff time and attention.
Another is we are going to be moving with the Adams system,
this calendar year, to what I will call a semi-paperless office -- I
don't want to say words that the CIO folks would disagree with, but we
are certainly going to be much more involved in electronic media than we
are today. And so -- and again, reacting to this change will be
substantive. So we really have an awful lot of change going on right
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MR. KNAPP: And I think we need to be very careful, --
again, experience of those where we have taken major facilities and said
you folks have got to make a change and they have brought themselves
from a mediocre performer to a top one, they tell us that one of their
common mistakes is just underestimating the resources necessary to get
there in terms of communicating with the staff and the impact it has on
staff. So we are aware that these problems exist, but I would not be
surprised, if we were to discuss this process one or two years from now,
I would say and, as a matter of fact, when I was there in 1999, I had
significantly underestimated the resources it would take.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MR. KNAPP: With respect to training, for example, just to
train in these various areas, to talk more about how we are doing
oversight, how we are moving to Adams and other things, is just about --
it's taking a big chunk of the training budget that we have for 1999 and
2000, and there's a lot of other training we need.
DR. GARRICK: Thank you. That's excellent.
Any other questions, comments? Your voice held up very
well, and we appreciate your being here and sharing the time with us.
This was very valuable information.
MR. KNAPP: My pleasure.
DR. FAIRHURST: Is it possible to get a copy of the plain
English handbook? I think that would --
MR. KNAPP: We'd be delighted to provide them to you.
DR. FAIRHURST: I'd be very interested.
MR. KNAPP: And certainly -- Louise, do we have enough that
we can do it today?
MS. LUNDY: Yes, I think we can do that.
MR. KNAPP: Yes, I think we can do that today.
DR. GARRICK: Charles is the plain Englishman on the
DR. GARRICK: All right, I think we will take a recess and
reconvene at 10:45.
DR. GARRICK: I'd like to come to order, if we could, and
continue with our presentations on this subject. We are now going to go
outside the NRC and hear from, among other people, the Nuclear Energy
Institute and Angela Howard is going to carry the burden and introduce
other people as appropriate on this subject.
So, Angela, it's your -- you have the floor.
MS. HOWARD: Good. Thanks very much. Let me introduce
Walter Hill. Walter is Director of our Communication Services Group
within NEI, and responsible for a lot of our written product in plain
MR. HILL: We hope.
MS. HOWARD: -- in our web development and our web sites and
a number of other activities that we have, and also in prior life was
responsible for some training in risk communications work, so has a
history there as well.
We really applaud what the committee is doing here in
looking at risk communications and getting into the nitty-gritty of
this. In supporting your initiatives, we would like to provide sort of
an industry view on your action plan, your communications action plan.
I would like to try to go over some of our experience relative to risk
communication, and I would like to leave you with some key
recommendations that we have thought about as we go forward.
We have participated in the NRC's DSI process and provided
comments there on the communication plan, and look forward to also
working with the NRC as we move forward in beginning to communicate not
only to the industry but to the public about the new assessment and
enforcement procedures; so very much a lot of communication that needs
to go on over the next coming months.
I was delighted to hear the comments this morning, both from
Bruce and Michael on what they are planning to do in that area. I look
forward to getting more information from Isabel on the research. That's
going to be very helpful to the industry at large. Not only to the
nuclear industry at large, but I think it is going to be helpful to the
communications profession at large, so I look forward to seeing those
results, and then working with Mal Knapp.
There's a lot of jargon, though, that we deal with. The
words risk-informed are words that resonate here. I think we probably
all have a common understanding of what we are talking about within the
NRC, within NEI; to perhaps a lesser degree within the nuclear industry;
and to a much, much lesser degree to a few members of the general
public. But I don't believe that we are really reaching the broader
audience that we hope to do with these concepts and so, of course,
therein lies the challenge: How do we do that?
You today, and particularly the committee, you are the
experts in a lot of this probabilistic risk assessment and analyzing the
technical processes that go into risk and how you deal with the
technical subjects. You are benefiting the regulatory process as you go
through this. But suppose as you leave here today, either to go out for
lunch or this evening, you are staying in the community and you are
talking with someone you strike up a conversation with at a shop you
might go into this evening, and someone asks you what do you do. You
know, that's a tough question. We all face that. What do you do.
Well, explain that to me. You may have a problem.
If you're talking to your office colleague who shares your
fascination with risk assessments, you can talk to 10 to the minus 6 and
all sorts of quantified types of dialogue. But if you run into someone
who is your neighbor, who is an expert in his or her own right, your
neighbor, or you run into someone that you meet in a casual social
setting, the average person may understand little, given the array of
comments and discourse that we hear in the general public, they have
misgivings. They may have imagery that the public perceives about
nuclear energy, radiation or radioactive waste in a very different way.
You can be assured that the soccer mom, the single dad, or
the retired grandfather going about their annual daily chores is not
thinking about risk communication or they are not thinking about the
subject in the same way that you want to communicate it. So it's no
wonder that they are sometimes suspicious of what we are saying, matters
that are nuclear-related. And then if you get into the situation where
they believe their family or their children may be in harm's way because
of what business we are in, their perception of the risk is something
that's entirely different from yours and mine. And seemingly no amount
of education -- and I use that in quotes -- on your part, on my part,
will convince them that the risks that they are concerned about is only
10 to the minus 6. So you lack the credibility at times to convince
them that they and their families are really safe. So, no, we are not
talking to our colleagues.
What I would want to try to do also is give you a little bit
of my own perspective in dealing with the communities around nuclear
energy plants that I have gone through.
But just to step back a little more, to put this in
perspective, you had the public meeting last March on Part 63 out in
Nevada, and I think that's a very good case in point. There were a lot
of astute and technical questions that were asked, but most of the
questions were highly personal in nature. There were questions about
the cultural heritage of the native people, and those present voiced
their mistrust of the technical experts who were comparing radiation
exposure from Yucca Mountain with the natural background radiation.
We got feedback that there were mushy technical language
that made it impossible to interpret the comments without a technical
There were comments to the effect that a change in the rules
now was a quote, double-cross, close quote, on Nevadans. There was an
expression of concern about children and infants. They are classic risk
The instinct and approach by many of our technically trained
people is to respond to these issues in terms of facts, figures, and
risk comparisons. We have heard this. Those responses don't clearly
address the concerns of the local residents, and they don't do so even
when there is awfully good intent on the part of the technical expert to
try to communicate. I am not suggesting that there is a purposeful
obfuscation. It's just that you are talking on two different plains,
and what happens.
Isabel told us that there was some credibility gaps that
prevent some communications. The regulator may suffer from a
credibility gap that prevents them from communicating their most
important objectives, their objective to craft the most efficient
regulations that really should provide members of the public with a
greater assurance of their safety. But if they don't talk at the same
level, they lose their credibility and lose it very quickly, if they
don't listen early on to what the questions really are.
So your objective in advancing your action plan is
appropriate to establish a greater public trust, confidence, acceptance
in NRC's decisions and actions.
As I illustrated earlier, communicating risk among technical
experts is considerably different from communicating risk to members of
the public. The trust levels do vary, and so must the approach. That
is if you expect to be listened to at all.
As you go about what you are trying to do, I encourage you
not only to hear from us, like we are doing today, but also look at
various other experts on risk communications. There are a number of
individuals, they are well known. Dr. Vincent Cavello is one and Dr.
I am not an expert in the theory and the technical, but come September I
will start my 30th year in this industry communicating to the public
about nuclear energy, and there's a lot of experience and practical
knowledge that I think I have gained over that time.
I started out working at Oconee as it was under
construction; this is in northwestern South Carolina. It's where I grew
up. I was working there at the visitors center, talking to the public
who was coming in, looking at a huge construction project. Not only
were there three nuclear units being built, but there were also three
dams and two lakes. It was big and there was a lot of activity, and
there was a lot of genuine interest and questions about what was going
As I would greet people, members of the public, they were
coming in and they wanted to know if we were building another bomb
plant, and very astutely we were trying to communicate that, oh, no,
this is not a bomb, the plant cannot explode, this is -- we were going
through all the technical language, until after a little while I started
thinking these folks want to know if it's another bomb plant. The bomb
plant is in Aiken, it's about 100 miles south. Bomb plant has been the
greatest thing since sliced bread in Aiken at that time, in that
perspective. People were happy as bud up there about it being a bomb
MS. HOWARD: They weren't worried about that. And so again,
it was what was the question. You know, to them, is this going to be a
project that's going to give us good employment, it's been good to the
environment, we've had a strong economy because of this, with influx of
federal funding and all of the kinds of things. And so it's how you
were asking and where were those questioners coming up.
Yes, there were other concerns and people wanted to know
about the project, but it was not from an anti -- when your immediate
reaction is, you know, to try to explain it away technically and they
were just sitting there looking at me like I -- you know, you're not
listening to me, and I wasn't.
Is the source of the risk information trusted? Do the
people that you're talking to feel that they have a choice in
volunteering or accepting the risk, or do they feel they have been
coerced into it, into just living with it? Those are -- are they
familiar with the technology? And I think that's a very key issue, and
as we -- as you talk about risk comparisons, it's easy to compare, and
we have things we can compare with, and in fact, in 1975, when WASH 1400
came out, we used those comparisons and used them very effectively, in a
way of sitting down with members of the public and talking through that.
But you still had that, well, there's nothing that I can really do about
a meteorite, and that actually was effective with the public because
there wasn't anything they could do about a meteorite, and you knew that
the risk of a reactor accident, of a fatality in a reactor accident, was
about the same.
But then there were the other aspects of I choose to drive
an automobile and I understand what those risks are, but what are my
benefits? Or I choose to live where I live, or I choose to smoke
because even that -- and that was in North Carolina -- there were a lot
of us who were smoking back then. Those were the kinds of things that
were public choice, and to many of the public at the time I'm talking
and today, talking about the risks that you are dealing with, if they
have no choice or no say in the outcome, that puts a very different
light in how one understands and wants to perceive what their risks are.
One of the things we have also learned is a part of that is
in perhaps not only comparisons of other risks, what you also need to
talk about are what are the benefits in relation to the risks. And
those are some of the things that in the industry we have been doing a
If you have a lot of memorable or negative imagery
associated with the technology, that creates a whole nother example of
how you talk about risk. Is there a sense of dread or catastrophe?
Does the source of risk information appear open and honest with those
sorts of issues? And certainly today, in the nuclear industry to a
certain degree, we live with Chernobyl, and our critics have now taken
the transportation issue to mobile Chernobyl; very effective sound
bites. And those are the things that we have to talk through and talk
about. Yet you've got to appreciate the fact that the public does have
an image of Chernobyl burning and, therefore, that image of mobile
Chernobyl is a very, very effective communication that the critics can
use to try to again sway public opinion. You don't ignore it, but you
simply have to work through that and communicate through that.
One of the points that I learned also early on in
communicating and what the images were and how people were perceived as
being credible, probably within a year after the first unit at Oconee
started operating, we did -- exceeded our instantaneous liquid rad waste
release limit; not the hourly, not the daily; the instantaneous release.
It was just a spurt that went down through the discharge and the
discharge there goes on down in the tail race of the Keowee Dam that
goes into Lake Hartwell which is the Corps of Engineer project
downstream, but about eight miles downstream is Clemson, Clemson
University. And at the time it was reported to the NRC, and working
with the region, we came to the conclusion that their advice that it was
an instantaneous release limit and not really reportable to the public,
no need to make a public statement. We were young and just learning.
About three weeks later, headquarters decided that we needed
to make a public statement on this. Well, that little bit of rad waste
was probably already in the Atlantic Ocean by that point. Certainly had
the Savannah River still been free-flowing and not have all those Corps
of Engineer dams on them. But we did have to make a public statement
about the instantaneous release limit and we tried to explain what that
Well, probably within about three or four days, I found
myself at a town meeting in Clemson that outgrew the town hall -- not
that it was that big to begin with, but it outgrew the town hall, and we
walked up the steps in this little community to the sanctuary of the
Methodist church, which happened to have been the church that I went to.
I'm from Clemson, and went to work at Oconee. By this point I had moved
and was working in Charlotte. And here I am in the sanctuary, down in
front of the pulpit, and Doc Murphy, who was one of our resident
inspectors, first resident inspector at Oconee, and I and Ed Smith, who
was the plant manager, were trying to explain what these limits were,
and we also had someone there from EPA, and trying to explain to this
public, the community there, who was furious, rightfully so. It's the
first that it happened, you told us we wouldn't have anything to worry
about, and now our orange juice that we mix the concentrate in with the
water from our taps has a chance of having radioactivity in it.
And finally, you know, it came down to someone in the back,
after all the technical experts had been up there trying to explain it,
someone in the back saying, "Angie, would you stand up and tell us,
would you drink this water?"
Again, it comes back to I was someone who was trusted. I
had brought with us the experts who were trying to explain what was
going on, but I was trusted, not because I was an expert, I was trusted
because I was from there. You know, I didn't bring anything other than
the fact that I was local. Some resented the fact that I was coming
down there trying to talk to them and coming back to my hometown to try
to quell the natives. But others did say, "Would you do this?" You
know, "Would you drink the water?" And I could say yes. And then they
So the point I am trying again to come back to is do you
know the local? Do you know your constituency? This is an awfully
important point, and this was in probably 1975. And one of the things
that we decided at that point, at Duke, was to go back and make sure
that our community relations were so strong within those communities
around the stations that we never had a situation where we did not know
One of the things that I think of the lessons learned from
Three Mile Island was that we needed to have much better emergency
preparedness. And I always said as we talked through this, you cannot
go in and introduce yourself to the local sheriff as the plant manager,
introduce yourself to the local sheriff and say, by the way, I need your
help in evacuation. It just isn't going to work.
MS. HOWARD: You've got to have some kind of ongoing
communication, so then you have that credibility and that trust.
We do a lot of research -- and I am going to talk a little
bit more about it in just a minute -- but one of the things that we have
learned from the public, in asking who do they trust, they trust the
experts from the local plant, they trust their local utility more than
they trust anti-nuclear. And to some degree, more than they trust third
party. If they know their local people, they trust them. And we see
that in spades as we do research around reactor sites or around other
nuclear sites. There's a higher favorability rating. Why? Because
there's a greater public understanding, and they go to church, they go
to shop with people who work at the station. So if John and Betty work
there, and they live nearby, and they have their kids in school and they
coached Little League, there is a feeling of trust and awareness. And
so that's how an element of risk communication can play if you use it in
the way of communicating on a daily basis what the aspects are; or, if
you are comfortable in the community. And so I encourage, from the
regulators' standpoint, of again from the residents or from the others
who are coming in and out, you can't get to know the local community
necessarily, but you can get to know the local officials. You can have
interactions. You can do that through a process, and particularly as
you are looking at the very specifics of the Yucca Mountain issue on the
waste side, there are ways that you can become more involved through
your process so that you have garnered and developed knowledge and
therefore some credibility and trust. And then you will be believed.
I mentioned using the reactor safety study and risk
comparisons and it really did have a profound effect as we were trying
to go about public participation in building new reactor projects in the
Duke Power Service territory.
One of the things that we did was to try to identify public
participation opportunities. In the case of Yucca Mountain you have got
so much work that is underway now, the extensive studies that are
ongoing, how much exact contribution you can get to the technical
aspects of the study may be problematic, but you can involve the members
of the community in analyzing the results and understanding the results
of the studies.
One of the things that we found again as I was working in
the '70s in building new additional sites is that we went in and
identified the public and by this point we did have anti-nuclear
opposition to the project, but we identified members of the public who
ought to be stakeholders early on and invited them to participate in the
process before we started the licensing process. We were just as the
site review stages and the preliminary stages of looking at sites and
We tried it also and even more effectively with a storage
project, of going in and identifying environmental groups, fishing
groups, for a pump storage site up above Oconee, and the contribution
there was significant as well because they came in and said your plan
for the road, access road, is not as good as if you would look at this
other ridge and coming in a different direction, and the company at that
point could make those changes and as you went forward in licensing
there was not the opposition, but it was bringing those stakeholders who
were identified, not those that just showed up -- because oftentimes
those that just show up are folks who have real concerns or haven't been
talked to, but it was going out and proactively identifying within the
community who were the people who you felt, we felt needed to know about
this who were the opinion leaders, who were the labor leaders, who were
the local community, and quite often it was not someone who was
necessarily president of the local mill or the chamber of commerce.
Very often it was someone who may have been a blue collar
worker but just was a key that individual community, and you could
identify those people. That is not a hard process to do, but it's being
on the ground and being local where you can really bring those people in
and provide them background, give them ample opportunity to ask
questions. You are not teaching them. You are gaining as much
knowledge as you are imparting to them, so as a result those local
people become the project's supporters.
They have the buy-in and we are seeing that today as we go
through the relicensing hearings with Calvert Cliffs and Oconee, some of
those same folks who have been involved from day one coming back out and
urging the NRC to relicense facilities.
Let me move to just briefly why it is no wonder that some of
the public may mistrust regulators or the industry if they feel there
concerns aren't fully addressed. Let me give you a couple of
hypothetical questions and answers.
Will this repository affect the safety of my family? Now a
couple of responses. "Any exposure from the facility is well within
regulatory limits" or "This facility will provide an adequate level of
public health and safety." Does that make you feel any better about --
MS. HOWARD: -- about the radiation from this repository
leaking in our groundwater and poisoning it? No. Not when we consider
that the concentrations of radioactivity at that point will be of little
Or -- "I have got to review this issue with my colleagues.
I will get back to you with an answer."
Those responses are truthful and accurate and probably caged
a little bit to be protective of perhaps the responder, but they aren't
going to be perceived that way by your audience. What that results in
is a public ripe to listen to others who want to use the process to stop
or to kill or to not allow a process to go further, and there are plenty
that way out in the community and we know them.
I will give you an example. Certainly the transportation of
nuclear waste is a very critical area. It is one that we have seen done
and handled extraordinarily successfully in the United States. We have
transported spent fuel and other nuclear materials over miles and miles
of highway and railway and we have had a few accidents and none have
resulted in release beyond regulatory limits --
MS. HOWARD: But we also have people going around using the
term "mobile Chernobyl." We have NBC coming out with a program next
Sunday and Monday called "Atomic Train," which by the way, if you have
not heard, is now a Russian warhead that has been smuggled onto a train
carrying hazardous waste, not nuclear waste -- but there are those in
Nevada who are taking out quite a lot of, we understand, perhaps even
some ads that said, you know, "This can happen here. If you transport
nuclear material across the United States into Yucca Mountain, Nevada,
this could happen to you."
They are using the opportunity. They are seizing the
opportunity. That is their right and that is the right of being an
American citizen to do that. I, to a certain degree, support that.
However, if we aren't doing the proper communication and involving
people in understanding and appreciating what the real risks of
transportation are, those who seize the opportunities or we let them
seize the opportunities will win the day with the public, because they
are appealing to what the public can understand, they are ripe to
understand, and if we are responding to them in obtuse kind of responses
and regulatory-ese or engineering-ese is it easy to know who the public
is going to turn to and listen.
Words like "transuranic" or even "millirem" are words that
we use daily but they sound like nothing more than technobabble to a
mistrustful or an uninitiated audience -- not an uneducated audience --
don't get me wrong. It is uninitiated, and as the conversation we had
earlier in the discussions a lot of very well-educated, well-informed,
intelligent people simply don't pay a lot of attention to our side of
the business and so they just don't know the lingo and the lingo-ese and
it is our job to communicate correctly.
At NEI we have learned a lot about communicating pure data
about nuclear energy and we have also learned that it is impossible
without a good background on how the audience is reacting in receiving
the information. We know from our experiences that audiences are more
inclined to understand the risks more clearly if they understand the
benefits that are associated with nuclear energy.
Let me go through a couple of results. We have put in the
back some of a public opinion writeup, some of the public opinion
research that we have done.
We see that 9 out of 10 college graduates agree that the
U.S. should renew the licenses of nuclear plants that meet safety
standards. We know that 3 out of 4 of those polled agree that we should
keep open the option of building more plants. More than half said that
the country should build more plants in the future. So those are the
kinds of responses that we get when we ask these kinds of questions --
"Do you support license renewal?" "What is your opinion on the nuclear
use of the future?"
We also have learned though that those who identify
themselves as favorable to nuclear energy also have some real
perceptions. They perceive that nuclear is used more in other countries
than here in the United States. Most would guess when we have asked
focus groups about this that there are less than 10 plants in operation
in the United States. When there are nuclear plants in the local area
many of them don't even know that there are plants in the local area or
are surprised to find that out.
That means that they also don't understand the benefits. If
they don't know that there is a local plant in the area, they don't
understand its clean air benefits, they don't understand its energy
supply benefits. So that tells us where we need to do some more work.
Even more telling is some polling that we did last December
among college-educated voters regarding legislation to take used nuclear
fuel to a central temporary storage facility. When informed that
nuclear energy provides 20 percent of the nation's electricity without
polluting the air, 68 percent of those polled said this would increase
their support for the legislation. And then when presented with the
idea that it would be easier to monitor and regulate fewer fuel storage
sites, 67 percent said that would increase their support of the
Again, greater familiarity leads to a greater receptivity to
One other last part, while the polling has shown that a
majority of those polled support nuclear energy, that same majority
believes that their neighbors don't and we call this the perception gap.
And when we did focus groups trying to understand the perception gap,
why was this so, those that said that they -- those that felt
comfortable about it may still have some reservations, but they had
concluded themselves that nuclear energy is needed and provided real
They also felt that others had failed to come to that
conclusion, a little bit almost elitist in that, well, I have make this
conclusion, but I am sure others haven't sorted through or thought
through this process.
Others also said they are influenced by what they see and
hear, and what they don't see and hear. So if they see and hear
negative images and don't see and hear positive images, that, again,
while they had made their opinion on nuclear somewhere else, they felt
others perhaps hadn't come to that conclusion.
The public also told us that they felt that there was not
enough salient information in the media and other public forums about
the benefits of nuclear energy, that the plants in themselves were
absent from the public arena. So, again, that told us that we needed to
do a lot more and to communicate about the benefits.
There is a great amount of information out there about risk
communication, about the process and how to gain more confidence in it.
There are a lot of pitfalls, but they are not insurmountable. The NRC,
I think has a desire to improve its ability to communicate the
regulatory process efficiently and effectively. As I said earlier, I am
pleased to hear the direction that you are going.
I think the bottom line is, as you communicate that, what is
the public asking for? Are they asking for zero risk? I think the
public, if we aren't communicating risk communication appropriately,
expects to be told that it is zero risk. And so as you go through that
process, we have got to understand, and particularly I think the Yucca
Mountain is a case in point.
The studies that are being done there are to understand the
mountain and understand then how to apply engineering principles and
design principles for further protection of the public, not to make
Yucca Mountain itself the sole protection of the public health and
safety once -- if it proves suitable and the site is licensed, but to
understand what is there.
So the process that the public needs to anticipate is not
that it is zero risk, but what is the risk and how they can understand
it and accept that into their day-to-day. I am confident it can be
So let me leave you with just several recommendations.
Recognize the wide range of public audiences that the NRC must reach.
When we commented last year on the NRC's communications initiatives, we
recommended that the NRC really revisit its apparent approach in looking
at the public as one broad group with little distinction between the
broad general public and those special interest groups.
And if you don't make that distinction, the NRC can expend
its energy debating highly technical issues with a very small subset of
the public, and oftentimes the subset that has a very specific interest
in not so much learning more about the technical issue, but in perhaps
stopping the process altogether. And what that results in is leaving
those members, other members of the public who generally have an
interest, confused and oftentimes feeling neglected or that their
questions aren't answered.
I think, you know, Chip, we have seen some of that in that
process with license renewal hearings.
Second, really risk communications training for the
appropriate technical personnel. And I was delighted to hear the NRC's
talk about they do plan to do training, because it a kind of how you
listen, and how you respond to questions that is unique. And, first of
all, those listening skills, it is just like my worry about people
worrying -- asking whether it is a bomb plant.
You know, you have got to know what they are asking and what
they are wanting to know, and that is a unique skill. And it is not so
much a skill of being able to respond in a sound bite and getting
everything down to what is going to appear on the evening news, but it
is responding clearly and crisply to the questions that are asked, but
also trying to think through to what is the question that is not being
asked, but really is the question that they want -- is the answer that
they want, or what it is that they are trying to know. Sometimes we go
far too far in answering the questions and really obfuscating the
Adapt to the appropriate context when communicating risk.
Again, not every audience is the same and the training can accommodate
that. You have got the opportunity to consider the best practices in
the fields and to craft some of those protocols that work for NRC.
And then, finally, solicit that routine feedback on
communications effectiveness. Don't buy the line that you can't measure
communications. You can, and you can get routine feedback. You can get
ongoing polling results and you know how you can resolve.
Feedback is integral to NRC's ability to respond effectively
to public input. Being prepared in advance of the public meetings,
incorporating the most effective and credible ways to respond to the
public concerns is vital. That way you can respond to the issues that
are raised most effectively, thoughtfully and thoroughly.
So I commend you for taking this issue up. I pledge to you
that NEI will be pleased to continue to work with you, answer your
questions now that you might have, but, certainly, on an ongoing basis,
share the information that we have learned and try to be as responsive
as we can be to you.
DR. GARRICK: Thank you very much.
Questions from the committee?
DR. GARRICK: I wanted to just pick up on a couple of things
you said, because I think they are very key to this whole process of
communication. You know, there is the issue of communication and then
there is the issue of influence. And I think one of the biggest
challenges that exists is to be able to represent before the
legislators, for example, the balanced public view.
I have participated in a number of public forums and most --
many of the public forums were attended in such a way that it was
clearly not balanced, and so the communication that took place was in
many cases not representative of the public, but representative of some
segment of the public.
I am also reminded that if you spend some time at
particularly the state legislature, that you find that the lawmaking and
the influence comes from professional lobbyists and groups that in many
cases are not, again, a balanced representation of the public views.
You commented on how important it is to have that kind of
representation and I agree with you. I guess the question is, how do
you get it? And, secondly, how do you get the output of that in a way
that does in fact represent a reasonable approximation of the truth as
far as public views and interests are concerned?
MS. HOWARD: It is hard, it is real hard because so often
there is a -- whenever there is a public meeting, you have got to have a
yea and nay, and then you have a debate, and oftentimes the questions
don't get fully addressed.
I think one of the ways that you do get your input into the
legislative process, both at the state level and at the federal level is
through both grass roots and coalition building. From the grass roots
standpoint, it starts at home, it starts within the businesses that use
nuclear technology, if we are talking nuclear-specific. It starts with
those that have affiliations with them and educating and providing
information to the employees, to the suppliers, to the vendors, to
labor, in a way that they see a picture and are willing -- and, also, a
very key part of that is communicating the importance of public
involvement in a public decision making process.
That, just as it is important to vote, it is important to
communicate views and opinions to the legislatures. And we understand
that legislatures oftentimes make opinions based on 10 or fewer comments
from the public. They will listen and they will get those, and that
means more when it come from home than any kind of lobbying than can
take place at the state house or at the Congress, that input that comes
from the local district.
And so, again, it is development of effective grass roots
communications, it is interactions with the state officials, with the
county officials. It is bringing in your constituencies. In the
nuclear industry, some of the constituencies today that have a lot of
interest are folks who are interested in maintaining and meeting Clean
Air Act requirements. The states today are very concerned that nuclear
plants may shut down. And the states that are concerned are those that
are responsible for meeting the state implementation plans in the 22
states that are not in attainment with the Clean Air Act. Because if
stay out of a containment, you won't have highway funds.
So those -- it is knowing who those audiences are and
presenting them with information that they can then use and oftentimes
they do. But it is ongoing, day-in, day-out kind of communication.
DR. GARRICK: Another key word that you used is the word
"choice." I think if you think of people and why they get angry at
certain decisions, it is more often than not because they did not feel
there was a choice.
And I think a lot of that is our fault, it is the technical
community's fault. It is so logical that it is rather amazing that
somehow it is not a very visible part of the whole process of
development of any project of any activity. It's so logical that indeed
there was a process that was -- the promoters of the project probably
went through to look at different alternatives and to evaluate the
alternatives against certain attributes such as cost and risk and
benefits. And I think that one of the things that you'll hear out in
Nevada as much as anything is they're angry because they feel that the
whole process of decision making was an arbitrary one.
So if it seems if there's one device that we need to employ
more or at least make more visible, because I think it is employed, I
believe what the primary problem is is that we just don't make it
visible -- is to structure these issues and projects and activities in a
form that makes it clear that there is an alternative, there are
different options available for solving a particular problem.
MS. HOWARD: Yes.
DR. GARRICK: It's my belief that even in the Yucca Mountain
project the thing went through several evolutions, and it was ultimately
Congress that said let's stop looking at alternatives and start thinking
about evaluating whether a specific location is suitable. But somehow
in that whole process it was lost that early in this process they were
clearly utilizing the concept of decision analysis --
MS. HOWARD: Um-hum.
DR. GARRICK: As a tool for moving towards a solution to
Have you had any experience or any activity where the issue
of alternatives has been kind of a central theme of public
participation? In a democracy you'd like to think that these projects,
civil projects certainly have to submit to that process.
MS. HOWARD: Well, the ones that I mentioned when I was at
Duke, where we were in the building mode then, we did implement that.
Unfortunately the Cherokee and the Perkins nuclear sites fell victim to
the cancellations of the late seventies and early eighties time frame,
both from a need -- the pump storage project did go forward, and again,
where there we solicited as well as, you know, received any, but
solicited those individuals who we felt would want to have a say or who
could, you know, be potentially adversaries to come in and sit down with
us as we did the initial planning of, one, how we were going to meet
additional, in this case it was peaking capacity, the attributes of pump
storage, and the sites -- and there were several sites that were
possible -- within a certain geographic area -- it was not a matter of
going 100 miles east -- but of these sites, and actually got technical
as well as experience in the part of nature, naturalist experience, to
come and really provide a strong input into the project. And everyone
left not getting everything they wanted.
Some of the choices that Duke made cost more than the
original plan, but it was a better road, you know, this happened to be
the access road going in, and the project went forward, you know,
without the public intervention. That's a big site. But the plans
early on in the idea of going to a one-step licensing with early site --
preapproved sites and preapproved designs -- the preapproved siting
process very much, and this was in the late seventies and eighties, as
we were doing these ideas had that exact element of public participation
in coming in and looking at the regional energy needs and how do you
site energy facilities or energy complexes before, you know, plans were
drawn and designs were put down on sites.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MS. HOWARD: So it's very much a process that I think you
can involve the democratic process. It doesn't mean you won't have
intervention, but it also means that if you have intervention, you can
hold the intervenor much more accountable because of the overall public
process that's been put into place.
DR. GARRICK: Any other comments?
DR. FAIRHURST: I think something you said almost alluded to
a fear that I have, and that is that technical people tend very much to
overreact to provide far more information than anybody wanted, to give a
complex answer when a simple one can do, a simple yes or no.
I was kind of intrigued as to what you have done. You
actually have, if you like, a position in this. You would be perceived
as having a position. Recently I was at a meeting, it was a conference
on retrievability, and the public apparently were -- the main reason for
retrievability is not that anybody technically feels that it is going to
be necessary, it's something to satisfy public concern that you're
stuffing something away forever. And most of the technical people in
the audience were talking about keeping the repository open for 100
years and so on, and this was across the board, not -- many countries.
And Swedish people said what we're going to do is we're
going to take a couple of our waste packages or simulated waste packages
and drill holes and put them in, would invite the TV crews in and all
the press and bring it in, stick it down, pick it up, take it out, and
say that's retrievability. And it'll take us maybe three or four years
and the public will have -- we'll see how they react to that and get
onto the next problem. And I suspect it wasn't the technical people
that had told them that, it was somebody else.
And so I have a great reluctance to become, if you like, a
direct participant in this. I'd rather be guided by somebody who has a
much better understanding, or be like you, fall into a situation where I
happen to be at that time a member of the local community, fight the
railroads like I'm doing right now.
I was wondering to what extent you've been able to identify
a pattern for success, if you like. You mentioned one where you
happened to be in the church where you grew up and so on, but are there
MS. HOWARD: I think some other patterns that we've seen is
the visual imagery is very important. As people have talked about spent
fuel or waste, the public conjures up green goo, and when you can take
them into a spent fuel and show them a spent fuel assembly and show that
being loaded onto a cask, even if it's a dry storage pad, you know,
cask, as opposed to -- and many companies do do some of this, and
they've shot footage of that. So it's the bringing the real image of
what it is that you're talking about to the public so that they can see
it, they can visualize it, they can get a sense of what you're talking
On the retrievability, I don't go along with the creating
something that is not real. I think that's a mistake. But if you -- I
think you've got some who want to simply be reassured that the
engineering is there -- there are some who would like you to believe
that you're just going to throw these spent-fuel canisters in the
mountain and walk away and nobody's going to do anything. And, you
know, who knows what, what if it should leak or what if or what if or
what if, instead of giving an assurance that it is an engineered
facility that's going to be there and is going to be monitored and with
engineering judgment we can monitor and we can make decisions down the
road. There's a managed process there. There's a responsibility there.
Because others would have you believe that you are just
going to throw it there and ignore it, and I think that is the element
that -- and some of that goes back to how we have managed other
hazardous waste in this country. It is not just a matter of perception.
There is key to or a tie back to, you know, the rogue waste haulers
opening the spouts from between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning and driving
down a country road. That's how they dispose of hazardous waste. I
mean we know some of that has occurred. We've seen it with PCBs so the
public learns about that and they cannot necessarily trust that that
won't happen with nuclear.
That is why you have to continue to give them the images and
the sense of responsibility and the sense of management that there is an
integrity on the part of the process.
DR. FAIRHURST: Has NEI talked to debating, high school
debating groups, or something like that, to get them to take this topic
up and debate it pro and con?
MS. HOWARD: Was it last year? I believe last year or maybe
two years ago that was a part of one of the national high school debates
was nuclear and we did provide a lot of packages of material and use our
website extensively for those sorts of things.
DR. FAIRHURST: It is likely you would get a reasonably
balanced argument there.
MS. HOWARD: You do. You do. As a matter of fact, I was a
little bit taken aback by my daughter's eighth grade science teacher
chose to teach nuclear energy, the components in nuclear energy, by
assigning people to be pro and con and have a debate. I didn't think
that was exactly, you know -- wasn't sure that they were going to get
all the technical information they needed, but we went along with it and
my daughter, who is a fairly rabid pro --
DR. FAIRHURST: I wonder why.
MS. HOWARD: -- drew an anti slot and had to argue the
other, which was great fun.
DR. FAIRHURST: No, that is the whole point.
MS. HOWARD: And they did learn and, you know, we had people
come, so to me they didn't treat coal or they didn't treat other aspects
that way. That is the choice of the students probably enjoyed it and
they probably got a little more out of it because they put a little more
into it, but we don't do a lot with the general public and with the
schools because our resources are simply not -- we do more of our work
at opinion leader and policy maker. That is why you see in our research
that it is the college-educated voter that is more the opinion leader as
opposed to the general public.
MR. HILL: I think just to follow up on your original
question about is there a pattern in addressing some of the matters that
you talked about, with the discipline of risk communication, yes, there
are a lot of proven examples where varying approaches in talking about
risk comparison work better than others, and I think the research that
Ms. Schoenfeld alluded to this morning point that up, but just to
emphasize Angie's point that providing training to technical people to
make them aware of those sensitivities is really key, because applying
those principles they feel largely foreign to those who have a great
deal of technical background and it takes a lot of practice, a lot of
dedication to the principles.
There are advocates of risk communication that think that if
you have a technical background and you communicate to the public where
you are not typically or predisposed to be trusted, then knowing those
principles should be part of your profession, should be just simply one
of your course requirements as you go through school that you have these
proper communications tools as you move forward.
DR. GARRICK: Very good. All right. Well, we appreciate
your sharing your information with us. It was a very timely message and
I am sure it is going to help us a great deal in formulating our
planning for the working group session.
MS. HOWARD: Good.
DR. GARRICK: So we thank you very much.
MS. HOWARD: Thank you.
MR. HILL: Thank you.
DR. GARRICK: In our final presentation we turn from an
industry-oriented association back to a Government agency. We are now
going to hear from Catherine Dawes from the EPA. I guess you are going
to talk to us about the EPA XL Program for Regulatory Excellence. We
are all very interested in that.
MS. DAWES: Good morning, my name is Catherine Dawes. I
work for the USEPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. I have been
with the agency for about nine years, I am now working in the Office of
Reinvention, in which I work on the XL program, which I will tell you a
little bit more about. I have also worked on what we call the Common
Sense Initiative, which was a sector-wide effort to work with industry
and stakeholders on a variety of issues. And in the past I have also
worked on what we call brown fields, which are redevelopment sites, a
little bit on Superfund, which I think has a lot of parallels to the
work that you all do.
And I just want to start out by saying that working with
stakeholders is an area that EPA has been recently gaining a lot of
experience in. I think like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, we are
an agency made up generally of engineers and lawyers. I am neither one.
I am policy wonk, which is just as bad I think in some cases.
So risk communications, stakeholder involvement,
environmental justice, these are terms that have really come to a lot of
use in I would say the last ten years of the agency. The first 20 years
of the agency was really focused more on regulations, rules and command
So let me get more into Project XL. Project XL is a USEPA
reinvention initiative. It stands for Excellence in Leadership and it
has been underway since March of 1995 when it was announced by the
Clinton Administration. The XL program designs experimental,
site-specific pilot projects that are aimed at carrying out new ways of
doing things like permitting and reporting. The key of Project XL is to
give facilities the flexibility in how they implement rules, regulations
and policy in exchange for superior environmental performance.
Right now EPA has 11 of these projects underway with
companies like Weyerhauser and the Intel Corporation. We have 27
projects in development, and there are a whole host of proposals that
have come in to EPA which we have chosen not implement for one reason or
another, in some cases because the stakeholder involvement component did
not work -- did not work well, or some might say it did work well and
that is why we do not have those projects.
Since its inception, meaningful and organized participation
on the part of the community and national non-governmental organization
representatives has been a criterion of the project selection process
and a cornerstone of the XL program.
Public participation has also proven the most difficult,
most challenging component of the program. Because EPA views public
participation in XL to be so important, the agency has undertaken
efforts aimed at looking at the program stakeholder processes, including
formal stakeholder evaluations of individual projects, a copy of which
has been passed out to you all; stakeholder roundtable meetings, as well
as a process reengineering work group. And this process reengineering
work group was composed of EPA staff, industry, stakeholders, local
representatives as well as national NGO representatives, and it worked
to streamline the XL process, while improving stakeholder access to
information, input into decision-making, influence on the project's
design, implementation and evaluation.
Overall, all of these forums revealed difficulties
experienced by public stakeholders involved with XL, several of which
EPA has taken formal steps to address, and I will summarize them for you
now. And if you have any questions, please jump in and interrupt me.
First -- and some of these findings are going to seem like common sense,
but difficult to implement.
A clearly superior model of involving stakeholders in the XL
project development process has not emerged. There is no cookie cutter
formula. There is no one model of doing it. We, early on in the
program, determined that a one size fits all approach would not be
suitable, particularly for the innovative nature of the initiative, but
I think you would find that it is not suitable for any site-specific
Therefore, EPA chose to focus on defining the principles and
process by which stakeholder involvement in the XL project should be
governed. By focusing on principles, the project sponsors, i.e., the
Weyerhausers and the Intels of the world, are the managers of the
process and can tailor the stakeholder involvement to reflect the scope
and complexity of the process -- of the project rather.
EPA expects each project to reflect the complexity and the
uncertainty of the project in the investment of the stakeholder process.
In other words, we expect that if a project is a relatively simple one
to implement and to comprehend, that the stakeholder involvement is not
going to be that complex. However, if you have a project that involves
multimedia, involves a number of different statutes, or is
controversial, we expect the stakeholder involvement process to be more
complex and involved. The key to this is to allow the stakeholders
themselves to have a say in how the process is structured and conducted.
The second major finding is that the clarity of the
structure and objectives for the process are the most important
indicators of success and credibility of the stakeholder involvement
effort. Early in XL we found that the confusion about and the
time-consuming nature of the process -- procedures for negotiating the
project's final agreements created problems in how our stakeholders
perceived our efforts.
EPA took steps to clarify and improvement and streamline
this process, resulting in a better understanding from all participants
and a related reduction in the what we call transaction costs of the
The reengineering effort that we initiated led to changes in
the actual negotiation process, including a Project XL Stakeholder
Involvement Guide, a copy of which you all should have. The guide
provides information on (1) how to determine what type of process is
appropriate; (2) the stakeholder needs regarding time commitment and
technical assistance, which I will come back to, and, also, as I
discussed before, the scope and complexity of the involvement process.
EPA is going to continue to evaluate these process changes.
We have only recently initiated them, but we are already seeing better
participation and better sense of credibility on the part of our
Now this is, as I said, one of our obvious findings, but it
is still critical to state, and that is building and maintaining trust
is critical. The program XL has faced perceptions that a project
sponsor could orchestrate stakeholder support and that EPA also needed
to better define the parameters of stakeholder involvement.
A crucial means to addressing both of these issues has been
for EPA to clarify its role versus that of the project sponsor in
managing the stakeholder groups. Now, the project sponsor, not EPA, is
responsible for initiating and maintaining the stakeholder involvement
process. The new Stakeholder Involvement Guide also recommends steps
for a sponsor to follow and identify and work with stakeholders on
While the stakeholder has -- rather, the project sponsor has
the primary responsibility for this stakeholder group, experience shows
that in the most successful processes, the sponsor and stakeholders
co-create the process, in other words, they talk through how they are
going to manage public meetings, how work groups are going to be
constructed, the time that is going to be needed as well as technical
While this participation is important to help ensure that
these processes are transparent, it should not be confused with EPA's
ultimate role of guaranteeing an adequate stakeholder process. In other
words, EPA still retains and understands that it has a responsibility
for ensuring that these stakeholder groups are transparent and are
We also -- EPA also retains the authority to approve or
disapprove an XL project based on how well the criteria are met, and
also States share the ability to veto any one project. So our
authority, EPA's authority is not delegated to stakeholder groups, but
the views and recommendations of direct participants strongly influence
the decisions of the regulators.
EPA has taken other activities aimed at building and
maintaining stakeholder trust. For example, we now have facilitation
assistance for project sponsors to initiate or kick off the overall
process, and also we've found that facilitation by a third party and
face-to-face meetings and also having site visits stand out as
demonstrated mechanisms for building trust.
And I can't emphasize to you more how important it is to
consider the third-party facilitation, to have a sense of someone who is
not invested in the process but who can help you work through the
issues, and in this case we chose, that third party is not EPA. When we
say third party, we really mean someone who is not associated either
with the Agency or with the project sponsor.
As I talked about before, an especially important step in
the XL process is for the sponsor and stakeholders to agree on ground
rules and responsibilities. Well-defined and transparent ground rules
are very, very important. I can't emphasize that more. Key topics for
consideration include participants' role, are they going to be part of
an advisory group, are they going to be a group that is simply
consulted, or are they going to be a group that has a decisional role?
Also, you need to define how that input should be expressed.
Particularly when you're talking about decisional group, you need to
talk about whether things are going to be done by consensus or by
majority vote. And I will further remark that you have to define what
consensus means. There are many different ways to define a constructive
consensus process. And if it's not clearly defined from the outset,
you're going to have a lot of troubles. These topics as well as other
ground rules must be discussed and consented to by the direct
Another finding, again common sense, tells us that input
needs to be obtained by local and national stakeholders early in the
process. We found that there's nothing more difficult than going to the
stakeholders and their having a sense that a decision has been made
among EPA agencies as well as the project sponsors, particularly
companies, big companies, and they sense that we've already made a
decision about what was going to happen and how things were going
So the stakeholder involvement guide emphasizes steps that
we expect sponsors to take to obtain stakeholder input as early in the
project development process as possible.
On the flip side, we also recognize that if you go to
stakeholders with a project idea too early, it may not be well
formulated enough to communicate it well.
Resources such as third-party technical assistance should be
made available to ensure local stakeholders have the ability to assess
the technical and environmental issues. What we heard from our
stakeholders repeatedly is that they had trouble comprehending the
technical issues and that they felt that using the project sponsor as
their resource for understanding those technical issues did not
necessarily satisfy them, and they did not necessarily consider that to
be credible, nor in every case did they consider EPA to be a credible
So what EPA has done to address this is to seek out means
for local stakeholders to receive technical assistance. In some cases
it may be fine from the project sponsor. There may be a State
government resource that is available or a national environmental
organization or academic institution may be able to provide technical
information or assistance to local stakeholders. However, when these
means are not available or appropriate, EPA has set up a mechanism to
provide specific technical assistance to stakeholders using the
Institute for Conservation Leadership. This assistance is available to
up to $25,000 per project when requested by a stakeholder group.
What we've found, and this is now going back to more the
issues of who is participating in these stakeholder processes, one of
the key findings that we've seen is that a number of our industry
project sponsors really have lacked experience in convening and managing
a site-specific intensive stakeholder process, and they have asked --
and they asked us frankly, EPA, to come up with recommendations for how
they should conduct a good stakeholder process, and so the stakeholder
involvement guide is part of our response to that.
One of the things that we found interesting to note,
however, is that the past industry participants both who have had
successful projects as well as proposal ideas that did not become
projects have reported that in every case they found the stakeholder
experience to be beneficial in the long run. So even though it was
difficult and challenging and in some cases more expensive than they
expected it to be, they found it beneficial for their reputations in the
community in the long run.
Also, another very interesting finding is that we have
learned that the participation of national nongovernmental organizations
such as your NRDCs, your EDFs, have received very mixed reviews from
other stakeholders. This surprised us. In some projects the
participation of the national -- and I'll just say NGOs -- the national
NGOs was consistent, timely, and really helped the project process to
move forward. And too the local stakeholders gave national NGOs very
high praise for being helpful to them by bringing expertise to the table
that the local citizens felt that they themselves lacked.
On other projects, however, the participation of national
NGOs was perceived as being inconsistent, late, difficult to predict,
and in some cases undercutting the goals and desires of the local
The national nongovernmental organizations' approach was
perceived as intervention and believed by the local citizens to be
disconnected from what they were trying to do, and we think -- we're not
exactly sure, I don't want to speak for the communities when I just --
but I'd like to just suggest as to why we found that disconnection.
I believe that part of it was because the national NGOs are
much more considered with the effects of a site-specific project on the
implications of national regulations and national policy and national
guidance. They felt that this could be precedent-setting, and therefore
if there was something that they were nervous about or didn't
understand, their goal was to stop it, not even to discuss it, but to
stop it, whereas local communities, when you're talking about a
site-specific effort where they were assured and sure that the companies
were not going to do anything that was jeopardizing them in their local
area, they were much more willing to go along with an innovative project
idea and not necessarily interested in the national implications of an
unusual or flexible process.
To try to get beyond this local versus national issue, XL
took the time to define different tiers of public participation. For us
direct participants are involved in the day-to-day aspects of project
negotiations. You must sign on to be a direct participant as a national
or local stakeholder and they influence the design and development of
the project and they may also influence EPA's ultimate decision to go
forward, but they have to be prepared to make a time commitment in the
Commenters are stakeholders who have an interest in the
project but do not participate on the day-to-day negotiations and
project development. EPA requires sponsors to provide information to
potential commenters and create periodic forums in which they can
express their comments. That may be through periodic public meetings or
through the Federal Register or other means.
The general public is involved -- that is our third tier --
is involved by having clear access to information on the development and
environmental results of the project on an ongoing basis and we expect
them to arrange public information or rather the project sponsors who
arrange public meetings where information is available and allowing
opportunities for the public to influence the decision-making.
Where we can, EPA also encourages viable links between the
national and local groups who are interested in individual XL projects
when a direct participant role is not feasible for the national groups.
With a major goal of facilitating more timely participation
with national NGOs in the commenter role EPA is currently compiling an
XL Commenters List that will assist the agency in notifying any NGO when
a proposed project is covering a topic they have shown interest in
Our final finding on what we have been learning about public
interest and participation is that it may drop off significantly once a
project is in the implementation stage. This surprised us. We expected
it to be even more intensive but it seems that once you have broke
through what the project is going to be and once they are getting
information, knowing that the project is either working or they
understand what the status of the project is, the day-to-day interest in
the project drops off quite a bit.
We are not absolutely sure that it's because they are sure
of the project. It may also be because the technical nature of the
project is too much for sustained interest. We have heard a little bit
of that, but until we understand this trend we are going to focus our
future EPA evaluations to get a better understanding of this.
As a final point I will quickly wrap up by saying that there
are things outside of XL that the agency is doing in order to gain
better experience and expertise on community involvement. In fact, EPA
now is going to have its second annual Community Involvement Conference
coming up in May and I don't have the details on that but I can
certainly send it back to you all later.
We also have what we call a Stakeholder Involvement Action
Plan where we are looking to do research on what different EPA programs
have learned about their experiences in implementing stakeholder
involvement in public participation mechanisms, and also I would like to
point out that the Superfund program has a very long history of building
a stakeholder involvement component, and if you haven't had them come
speak to you, I would recommend that you do that, and again I can supply
you with names of people to do that, because I think there are a lot of
parallels because of the kinds of hazardous waste issues that they are
handling that you all may learn from if you haven't already.
DR. GARRICK: Thank you. Questions?
DR. HORNBERGER: Is XL still in EPA's view sort of in a
pilot stage? Is there a plan to move this -- have you learned enough to
do a lot more of these or are these so energy-intensive because they are
specific that they are going to remain sort of just a small fraction of
MS. DAWES: That is a great question and it is one that
we not debate but one that we consider regularly.
Our goal is to have 50 XL projects by 1998 We have 11. We
have 27 -- or rather 1999 we have 11 in implementation.
We think we are on track to have 50 but we don't know when
we will have 50. Clearly we hope to have it before Year 2000.
We pretty sure that XL will -- the program itself will stop
once we get to 50 projects. The question is what is the life after XL
and how are we going to integrate what we have learned about running
innovative experimental projects into the agency culture as a whole, and
we are having a lot of input from people as to how we do that.
Ours is not the only program that is working with
experimental items. There's also an agreement we have with the
Environmental Commissioners of the States -- oh, boy, I hope I had that
right -- ECOS, which similarly to XL is designed to have innovative
projects that are more focused on what state interests and so between
those two programs we should be able to decide in Year 2000 I think is
going to be the crucial year for us what is life after 50, as we like to
DR. HORNBERGER: You probably have seen there was an Academy
report that came out perhaps a year or two ago on basically barriers to
innovative technologies, cleanup technologies --
MS. DAWES: Right.
DR. HORNBERGER: Of course, one of the things they point out
is are some of the difficulties with the standard regulatory approach
that presumably a program like XL could overcome --
MS. DAWES: That's right.
DR. HORNBERGER: -- and so is that part of your thinking?
MS. DAWES: That is certainly a part of our thinking. We do
have some projects that have incorporated innovative technology into the
overall project effort. We haven't had a project that directly gets to
the type of innovative technology that you are talking about.
Our first projects operating under Superfund, which as I
said, I think the program that most parallels what you all do here, is
focused on stakeholder involvement, having a more intensive stakeholder
involvement component than it would otherwise, interestingly enough, and
the goal of that is to ensure that the cleanup is done -- that there is
a stakeholder involvement process in the cleanup so that redevelopment
at that site has already incorporated what the community's goals are at
that site, so yes, it is a very interesting project -- and that is the
Exxon Project we have -- it is not signed but it is one that has been
proposed in the Federal Register and we expect it to be a final project
agreement sometime this spring.
DR. GARRICK: Some programs have groups that are called
Citizen Advisory Groups.
MS. DAWES: Sure, yes.
DR. GARRICK: Now is this as far as you know taking
advantage of that experience --
MS. DAWES: Yes.
DR. GARRICK: -- or is this a similar kind of activity is
one question, and in relation to that, some problems that have developed
with the Citizen Advisory Groups is that certain special interest groups
have sort of taken over the Citizen Advisory Group.
How do you protect against that sort of thing and the first
question was, of course, are you familiar with the Citizen Advisory
MS. DAWES: Yes. Citizen Advisory Groups really are linked
to the Superfund Program.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
MS. DAWES: That is where it started. They also have
similar groups with the Federal Facility Cleanup Programs, which I am
sure you all are familiar with, so are where I know of that the Citizen
Advisory Groups are part of the norm for the programs.
In terms of working with ongoing stakeholder groups where
you have special interests having a strong voice, I am not sure how to
answer you on that. I am not the best person to respond to that, except
I can say that with XL what we have tried to do is create a sense of
balance by saying, first of all, don't exclude -- as you pull together
your stakeholder involvement group, don't reaching out to your critics,
because if you do they are going to get their way. They are going to
find their way onto your stakeholder involvement group anyway.
DR. GARRICK: Right. I don't think the issue is that they
shouldn't reach out. Certainly they should --
MS. DAWES: That's right.
DR. GARRICK: The issue is that it shouldn't be taken over.
MS. DAWES: That's right, that's right, and maintaining a
sense of balance is challenging to say the least. I mean we experienced
that with the difference between the local and the national groups where
you have national groups who did not participate day to day and yet when
they weigh in for EPA we really stand up and pay attention.
I don't know what to tell you in order to reduce that,
except to say that you have to keep on reaching out to other groups as
well, finding ways of providing -- because one of the reasons I think
that some of those special interest groups are able to participate more
in the day to day process may be because they have better technical
DR. GARRICK: Right.
@@ DR. GARRICK: Right.
MS. DAWES: They have access to technical assistance. If
you make access to technical assistance available to the general -- to
other members of the general public, people who have interest in
participating but won't do it without feeling like they can come to the
table and speak intelligently about the issues, then I think that that's
maybe one of the ways that you can help get more balance.
DR. GARRICK: Does the potential exist for more than one
stakeholder group per project?
MS. DAWES: Absolutely.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MS. DAWES: Absolutely. When we say the stakeholder
involvement group, we are assuming for XL that there is a series of
different types of representatives. They may be private citizens
representing themselves. They may be representing the local church, the
local environmental organization, as well as the national environmental
or State environmental organizations.
DR. GARRICK: When do you think you'll have enough
experience with this process through the pilot programs to --
MS. DAWES: Well, we think we have a lot of experience now,
but I think it's one of those areas where you never stop --
DR. GARRICK: Um-hum.
MS. DAWES: Learning. And each -- what we've found is
consistent with XL projects is that each XL project is different. So
because we -- I think the one area in which we are quite sure of
ourselves is saying that whatever process you do initiate, it has to be
clear and transparent, and it has to focus on building credibility and
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MS. DAWES: And without those components, no model is going
DR. HORNBERGER: One of the things that -- well, the terms
that we use now quite frequently and you're probably familiar with is
risk-informed, performance-based regulation, and --
MS. DAWES: Sure.
DR. HORNBERGER: Clearly XL is performance-based. There's
just no --
MS. DAWES: Yes, sir. Right.
DR. HORNBERGER: Doubt about it. To what extent do you see
it having the risk-informed aspect, and how do the stakeholders --
again, how do you communicate this aspect to the stakeholders?
MS. DAWES: Could you help me more with the risk-informed
DR. HORNBERGER: Yes, well, I mean, the risk-informed would
have to do with the whole idea of there being risks associated --
MS. DAWES: All right. Okay.
DR. HORNBERGER: Residual risks associated with whatever
activity you're doing.
MS. DAWES: I understand.
DR. HORNBERGER: And how do stakeholders buy into that.
MS. DAWES: Yes. The key to getting them to buy into any
risk associated with these projects is that the goal of the project is
to produce superior environmental performance in the first place, and we
also work to ensure that there's no transferring of risk from one media
to another. In other words, if the project is going to reduce risk in
air, if it's increasing risk in water, that's not superior environmental
performance for us.
So by putting that into place, more communities are willing
to take a risk on a new way of doing things, and by ensuring -- the
other key that we're finding is by finding ways to communicate the
results of a project in very straightforward and technical yet simple
terms so that people are assured that they understand what the
monitoring of the project is and how the project is doing. And what we
built into the whole process is should a project not be working in
sustaining superior environmental performance, we're looking for ways to
find a "soft landing" so that they can return to their traditional ways
of doing things to get back to the baseline that they were at before.
DR. WYMER: To what extent do you think that the very nature
of the EPA organization and its mission gives you sort of a leg up in
credibility, and how do you try to capitalize on this if it's true?
MS. DAWES: It doesn't give us a leg up in credibility
necessarily. With some groups that's true. With many groups it's not.
I've been at many a public meeting at which I can assure you EPA was not
considered the guy in the white hat -- gray at best.
So what I will say, though, I think that because EPA has
been on the front lines of people's thinking about environmental cleanup
that we have been forced to learn a lot about working with the public
and risk communication. But again I'll say we have a long way to go,
and a lot of our learning has been very recent, because making the shift
from communicating in a forum that is normal for engineers and lawyers
has been hard for us to do, so it's -- I think we have a long way to go.
DR. WYMER: That's disappointing.
DR. GARRICK: Any other questions? Lynn.
MS. DEERING: Yes, a quick question, please.
You mentioned that the risk communication -- you are
starting to get an education in that more and more. Do you mean across
the whole EPA? Is there interest in your average engineer or scientist,
you know, getting training on that specifically?
MS. DAWES: I would say five or six years ago my answer to
that would be no. I think today most EPA staff recognize the need to be
able to communicate well with the public, and to communicate simply and
honestly with the public, and that the goal is not to deluge them with
so much information that they don't want to, you know, ask you any more
questions, but the goal is to really hear and understand the questions
that they're asking.
I think we now -- we're having under way a new Environmental
Information Office. It's not in place yet, but we're transitioning to
that. And one of the major goals of that office will be to develop
policies and mechanisms for better presenting technical information and
providing technical information to the public.
MS. DEERING: What was that office called?
MS. DAWES: It's going to be the Office of Environmental
MS. DEERING: Okay.
MS. DAWES: It's under way. It has not --
DR. GARRICK: Any other questions?
MR. HAMDAN: My name is Latif Hamdan. I'm with NRC Division
of Waste Management.
Actually I have two questions, but they are related. The
first question is to the previous speakers. I didn't have a chance to
ask it, and let me ask it first. And that is, there was mention of the
importance of the image and credibility to communication of risk, and I
just wanted to ask if considering the problems, the image problems that
the industry had in the past, if there was any effort to have risk
communication training specifically targeting this rehabilitation of
The question for the EPA is are there any negative aspects
of XL like, for example, delays and costs and even so much -- even
conservatism in the rules ultimately because you see this -- or if the
program is so good that the nuclear industry can use to rehabilitate
their image maybe.
MS. DAWES: Of course the program is great. The program is
great; XL is great.
No, XL is not perfect by any means. It's a very difficult
program to manage. It frankly is recovering in the last year from three
years of difficulties in how we manage the process. It took very long.
The transactions costs were great. People were unhappy. And so we're
really working on rehabilitating our own image right now.
In terms of working with the nuclear industry, I would
assume and suppose that if there was a project that came in, a proposal
that came to EPA, that we would consider it as we would consider any
other project. We have projects that we're considering with the
chemical industry, so -- which I think also has certain image problems.
But I think the key to remember is that with the XL program,
the only way for a project sponsor to participate is for it to be one --
for its proposal to be providing superior environmental performance, as
I talked about before, and also XL has a compliance screening process
where if a sponsor has had regular day-to-day noncompliance with EPA's
or a State's regulations, we're not going to move forward on the
proposal. So those are the two mechanisms that XL used to ensure that
when we move forward with a project, the project sponsor is able to
manage the process.
As to the other program, I can't respond.
DR. FAIRHURST: John?
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. FAIRHURST: Just a comment. It was EPA that regulated
or decided to give the license for WIPP, and I was in the audience when
I heard one of the intervenors say we have been betrayed by the one
agency we'd learned to trust. So once you get associated with
MS. DAWES: Yes.
DR. FAIRHURST: There are certain things that are difficult.
DR. GARRICK: Thank you very much.
I think we have learned about a very important program, and
we want to learn a good deal more. So maybe down the road a little we
can hear some more about it.
MS. DAWES: Certainly.
DR. GARRICK: So thank you for coming.
MS. DAWES: Thank you.
DR. GARRICK: I think we're right on schedule, and we will
adjourn for lunch now and reconvene at 1:30.
[Whereupon, at 12:28 p.m., the meeting was recessed, to
reconvene at 1:30 p.m., this same day.]. A F T E R N O O N S E S S I O N
DR. GARRICK: The meeting will come to order. We have a
very interesting opportunity this afternoon to meet with Dr. Bill
Travers and Carl Paperiello and have a little bit of a face-off with
respect to issues and topics. I think that one of the things we want to
get out of this is an opportunity to maybe better coordinate with your
office on some of the issues that you see that are important that we
might offer advice on.
We have heard a good deal about the cultural change that is
taking place at the NRC and how implementing that cultural change is
presenting some problems with respect to resources to carry on the other
initiatives that you have in place. So it is a time when we need to be
very careful in our decision-making about what we offer advice on, and
so this, we hope, will provide us additional information to help us make
good decisions in that regard.
One of the things that we thought might be a reasonable
preamble to the discussion would be to give a brief overview of what the
committee has been up to for the last year or so, and the staff person
that has been helping us be organized in that regard is Lynn Deering,
and so we are going to continue to lean on her for that kind of
information, and I have asked her if she would give a brief summary of
some of those activities as a possible framework for our discussion.
But, anyway, we are very happy you are here and we hope that
this is the beginning of something that happens quite routinely.
DR. TRAVERS: Thank you very much. Before Lynn goes, if you
will just spare me a moment I will respond briefly.
DR. GARRICK: Sure.
DR. TRAVERS: I am glad to be here, glad for the
opportunity. I am relatively new in my position, it has been a little
over six months now, but I have been looking forward to meeting with the
members of the committee.
Certainly, we are open to any ideas you have or maybe we
have for better coordination. But I think -- it is our perception that
we have some pretty good mechanisms in place through Carl and his senior
staff generally to assure that we are well coordinated. In fact, I have
seen your proposed action plan and some of the informal comments I think
you have received to date have given you some sense of views on some of
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: I would be glad to enter into discussions
today a little bit further on that. I should point out that Frank
Miraglia, who I have sort of sequestered on budgetary issues, you
mentioned the ever-pressing issue of resources.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: And it is certainly one we face seemingly
every year, about this time in particular, because of the sessions that
we are called into. Frank would love to be here. He is unfortunately
tied up. It was him or me and I opted to keep him pressed on the
budget, so we are going to let him move forward in that regard. But I
know he will look forward to perhaps coming to your next meeting if that
is something we can arrange.
DR. GARRICK: Great.
DR. TRAVERS: But I will turn it over to Lynn.
DR. GARRICK: Okay.
MS. DEERING: Thank you. I am just going to take a few
minutes. Forgive me if I say something that you already are aware of,
but we are just going to give you an overview of some of the planning,
our planning process, and it is new as of two years ago. This was the
second year that we developed an action plan and the committee believes
that it has really helped them focus their efforts and produce some
tangible results, that, you know, we weren't totally sure you were aware
of what we were up to.
So, in addition to the two strategic plans we also produced
a self-assessment and that came out only about two weeks ago, and it is
a rather thick document. But it was an attempt to look at outcomes,
measure the committee's outcomes relative to metrics that we selected.
And we learned a lot in that process as well.
I also wanted to mention, typically, we take the action plan
and we try to coordinate that with the Commissioners and their technical
assistants and get their buy-in -- Do you think we are on the right
track? -- before we go down the path. And the Commissioners have
encouraged the committee to -- before I say that, there is basically
three areas. The committee does some self-initiated work, things that
they believe the Commission ought to be worrying about that perhaps it
is not, and the Commission encourages them to do that. So that is one
area that we feel there has been some real accomplishments in.
They also respond to the staff, as you know. And, in
addition, they -- what is the third category? Things that are most
urgent to the Commission, requests from the staff and self-initiated,
those are the three.
In doing our self-assessment, we thought that some of our
most important accomplishments and most effective were the
self-initiated. And just a couple of examples this year on topics that
were self-initiated include the LNT, the status of the LNT model, which
took place a few months ago. And that, we had the endorsement of
several Commissioners to go ahead and move forward in that area.
The topic of risk communication this morning. We spent the
morning looking at that topic and there are plans for the rest of this
to also have more initiatives on risk communication.
DR. TRAVERS: Is October a workshop or a working meeting?
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: I saw some particularly --
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
MS. DEERING: Yes.
DR. GARRICK: we are going to see what we have learned.
MS. DEERING: Right. That is the idea, is to get an
education and then go use it.
And I also wanted to mention the viability assessment
comments that the committee made, because that was, again, what we would
call a request from the Commission and we felt that was effective, and
that it is being sent along to the DOE along with the staff's comments.
Last year, some of the accomplishments of the committee were
-- again, that were self-initiated or Commission requests were the
efforts to try to help make 10 CFR 63 more risk-informed and the topic
of dropping the subsystem requirements. And the committee feels they
had some influence on how that regulation turned out, and they are proud
of that. And they also made comments on the risk-informed,
performance-based white paper at the request of the Chairman last year.
And, again, that was what we would consider in our self-assessment a
DR. TRAVERS: It had a long incubation period, but I think
it turned out right at the end.
DR. GARRICK: Yes, it did. We thought maybe for a while our
comments put it to bed.
MS. DEERING: I was coordinating with Dan Martin last week
and provided him a copy of some of the -- these are beans as opposed to
outcomes, but some of the statistics for this year, what we have some
far, and just very generally, of our five first tier priorities, we have
first and second tier priorities, the committee has already looked or
has already addressed all five of those, with the exception of risk
communication, there is not a letter yet, but that is forthcoming.
And they have addressed two out of six or their second tier
priorities already this year. And the effectiveness of that advice and
those letters will be evaluated this fall when we do another
And I just wanted to wrap up by saying that the committee
advises the Commission, of course, but they consider the staff a key
primary customer of the advice, and the committee believes that its
independent oversight role does add value to the NRC's process and helps
with credibility in the stakeholders' eyes. And we hope that you agree
as well that the committee does add value to the staff's work.
DR. TRAVERS: We do, I should add.
MS. DEERING: There is a commitment in the strategic plan --
by the way, our '99 one is about to come out in this little format -- to
work with the staff in an environment of mutual problem-solving. And
the committee has made a real sincere attempt to try to do that and
continues to try to do that, and we all look forward to working with the
staff this year in that regard. Thank you.
DR. TRAVERS: Thanks very much.
DR. GARRICK: Thank you, Lynn.
DR. TRAVERS: You mentioned one thing and maybe I can ask
you a question about it, because I do have a list of your first and
second tier items, and you have identified several different groupings
under which these particular items might fall, self-initiated being one.
Commission or staff -- I guess staff requested or Commission requested.
And I was wondering if you could just briefly identify for
me, I was just curious as I went through these, which ones fell into
which category. I have a list but it wasn't clear. The first one was
DR. GARRICK: I don't have a list in front of me. Well, is
DR. TRAVERS: I have this one. I could guess at the ones
the staff probably -- I mean I am sure this would be us, the staff.
DR. LARKINS: Some of these issues are developed from the
'98 strategic plan, and then the Commission will endorse or ask the
committee to do something additional. Like on the first one, the VA,
there was pretty much a strong Commission interest in having the
committee's views on that. And in addition to doing a report, they also
came in for a special Commission briefing on that subject.
DR. GARRICK: Well, a summary of this, Dr. Travers, is that
the LNT and the risk communication are self-initiated. But I think the
rest of these are pretty much Commission or staff requested.
DR. TRAVERS: Or staff, yes.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. LARKINS: But even on the LNT, I think it was first
suggested by at least one Commissioner that the committee take a look at
the set, after which there were two other Commissioners who requested
that the committee keep them abreast of what was going on in this
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: There is certainly going on internationally
and even nationally in this realm, so I can understand how that outcome
ultimately could affect some of the key parameters, for example, the
high level waste repository and some of the design issues. But you are
staying on top of it, I think is good.
DR. GARRICK: Yes. Well, our thought here is to monitor it
and have a meeting on it based on what we see from our monitoring, and
right now that seems to be happening about every one to one-and-a-half
DR. TRAVERS: I see.
DR. GARRICK: And if there is a major event such as the NCRP
report, we try to time a consideration of it when there is new
information about to be published.
DR. TRAVERS: Yeah, I know. I talked to Dr. Thadani -- Mr.
Thadani on the way over here, and he mentioned that there is some
considerable work going on in the Office of Research, you know, sort of
in the national, international front. It would probably be useful from
time to time for us to give you, even from the research perspective,
some sense of what we are learning in this realm.
As we go forward, maybe we can go into that some.
DR. GARRICK: Right. We learned from our working group that
DOE is some research into the LNT area as well and we hope to be able to
note in our letter where we think the strengths and weaknesses are with
respect to what we know and what we don't know.
DR. TRAVERS: It certainly has some large implications for
waste generally --
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: -- but certainly for the High Level Waste
Program in particular.
DR. LARKINS: John, could I add one other thing? Len
mentioned the three areas the Commission requested, Staff requested and
so I'll finish it. There are also individual issues that Commissioners
will raise from time to time, some of which if they are of a generic
nature the committee would consider. Others which are more specific
individual issues like the Trojan vessel and some of the other things,
the Envirocare issue, the committee because of timing and resources
doesn't take up in its workload.
There are a number of other issues that do come up from time
DR. GARRICK: Yes, and you talked earlier about limited
resources and no matter how much we try to systematize the process of
priorities and select things particularly with respect to self-initiated
there are things that we would like to address that either time doesn't
permit or it competes with something, and of course we have learned
about a couple of those and that is one of the reasons we want to get
input from you especially prior to our next planning session, because
there is a sense that there's a couple of projects that we could have
addressed or provided advice on that we did not.
We would like to reduce those as close to zero as we
possibly can. I think one of those was the West Valley Project, that it
was brought to our attention that maybe we could have provided some
advice on that and it just got caught in competition with other issues
and we were unable to do so.
DR. TRAVERS: Are there other matters of that sort that we
have identified a potential for coming before ACNW?
DR. PAPERIELLO: I don't know, but one of the things is we
have an operating plan and I don't think there's much I do that is not
in our operating plan. If you will look through the operating plan,
unfortunately the operating plan for NMSS is about this thick and I
don't think, as I said, that there is much I do that is not in there.
From my viewpoint West Valley was -- I am not saying it
wasn't important, it was all important, but it was two FTE out of a 450
FTE program that I am running and some of the problems there is I was
not here for three months last year, and there's a number of projects
where there was a break and that was one of them -- has affected how the
Yes, looking in retrospect you probably should have looked
at it, but I don't know what else is in there, since there's just a
whole lot of -- I just have a whole lot of things on my plate. It
wasn't a question of conscious decision. It was just shells going
DR. GARRICK: But it is my understanding that some of the
key issues that through Carl we have identified certainly include Part
63, which you helped with --
DR. PAPERIELLO: Right.
DR. GARRICK: -- and you have identified that, Lynn. Yucca
Mountain Review Plan, more recently. We are looking at clearance
rulemaking and the decommissioning program, decommissioning standard
review plan, which we think the committee can add value to as well.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Part 40.
DR. GARRICK: Part 40?
DR. PAPERIELLO: We owe the Commission a paper in September
on Part 40. Part 40 has been ducked by -- for god knows how many years.
There's two pieces of Part 40, because I am going to probably suggest to
the Commission we do it piecemeal.
One deals with all the exemptions and the GLs that we have
authorized, which were never done from a viewpoint of public health and
safety but were done from the viewpoint of control of strategic material
historically, but the other piece is the threshold, the 500 parts per
million or either something not being source material or being exempted.
That is going to be an incredibly difficult thing to deal
with because there is no health-based way to move that number without
getting us into regulating TENORM, and I just don't think we want to
regulate TENORM and licensing in particular is not any way to regulate
TENORM, so the question comes down to how do we handle that problem.
I had an offsite retreat about two months ago. I think we
did a good job in defining the problem. I have a proposal for what I
call an interim fix and then a proposal for a long-term fix, long-term
fix meaning legislation, but I think that would be something that we
ought to share with you. It is not an easy problem because the numbers
were picked in 1947 and they were picked from the viewpoint of national
security and the goal was to ensure that every extractable gram of
uranium wound up in Uncle Sam's enrichment plants for weapons and wasn't
wasted on other things, and then as uranium became more and more
plentiful the regulations were revised to allow more material to flow
into, say, researcher's hands or things like that, but nothing was ever
done from the viewpoint of radiation protection.
The more I think about it, and I am glad you raised the
DR. TRAVERS: And that is an interesting one, and as I
understand it the Spent Fuel Program office reviews or at least
activities are going to be briefed to the committee as well some time
later this summer.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I think one thing to do is having the Staff
go through our operating plan and see if there's issues in there. We
may not have thought they involved waste but Part 40, I mean it is all
entangled in there and the exemption gets heavily involved in waste
disposal. If I have waste and it is less than 500 parts per million,
does it then automatically exempt (c) in Part 30 -- you can't throw
material over the fence. You can't distribute stuff that is exempt
automatically but Part 40 doesn't have that restriction.
DR. TRAVERS: Well, and that is certainly one way to look at
it, but I think we would like to go through that same operating plan and
give you -- I mean we have been giving you a sense that the key issues
that we think, at least from our perspective, selfish as it may be, that
the committee ought to focus on Part 63, some of the key technical
DR. PAPERIELLO: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: -- in the High Level Waste Program and so
forth -- you know, we feel rise to the top, or hopefully can be seen by
the committee as rising to the top of your activity level and we will
certainly take another look at the operating plan, but we will give you
a copy as well.
DR. LARKINS: The ACNW does have an operating plan
themselves and we try to make sure there is some connection at least in
the timing of things between the two, and also when we look at plant
activities or accomplishments for the year. We try to compare it with
those which are published or available from NMSS also.
DR. PAPERIELLO: But the big ticket items, at least in the
coming year, still are going to involve high level waste. The EIS for
Yucca Mountain is clearly right now the next big high level waste big
ticket. It is kind of in parallel with where we go with Part 63, and
then of course if the EPA does in fact promulgate a Yucca Mountain
standard over the next several months -- I mean a week ago it was going
to be last Monday. Well, obviously it wasn't happened.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: I was interested to see of your interest in
risk communication. I think I know, Dr. Garrick, you have had an
interest in this area for some time and just generally you have talked
about some of the work we have been doing to formalize some of our
outcome based planning and certainly public confidence has been
recognized by the Staff as a goal that we need to actively consider as
we move forward in a number of initiatives that we have underway, not
just initiatives but in sort of our day to day planning efforts.
I would be interested in understanding perhaps just a little
bit better about what your focus is or at least activities or at least
where you think you see yourselves heading in that regard, because it
can be, as you know, it can be a fairly broad area.
DR. GARRICK: Well, it is. I once got myself in great
trouble with my risk communication colleagues by telling them I thought
it was about a half-hour subject and I have learned a little
differently, being a risk assessor not a risk communicator.
I argued that one of the things that is required in order to
have effective risk communication is to have effective knowledge of what
the risks are, and that we need to do that. On the other hand, I have
since seen the light as far as the importance of risk communication,
partly as a result of participation on this Committee, and having some
genuine field experience in being in the cross-fire of a public forum
meeting and understanding the kinds of questions that people in the
local communities of these facilities, the kinds of questions that they
have on their mind, and have gained a great deal of appreciation for it.
That had something to do with thinking that maybe we better give this
topic more attention.
But what we're really trying to do is look at it from the
standpoint of technical people and the contribution that technical
people can make to the whole process of risk communication. We are not
public relations experts. We're not even holding ourselves out as risk
communicators. We're technical people trying to understand what the
problems are and offer rational, reasonable advice on them.
But I do believe that what we have learned is that
communication with the stakeholders, understanding their problems, and
more importantly, conveying to stakeholders that you're interested in
their problems as well as understanding them, and that you are, to the
extent that your charter allows, providing a service to the
stakeholders. So we thought that well, in order for us to be an
effective instrument in this whole process, that we needed to learn a
lot more about it and to do a lot of listening.
And to the extent that we can be a player in the process, we
will, but we, as I've said, we recognize that our principal role is to
offer technical advice, but that offering of technical advice in itself
is a kind of a form of risk communication, especially with an agency
that's transitioning to a risk-informed way of practicing regulation.
So that's kind of behind why we're doing this, and based on what we've
heard, at least so far, I think we're inclined to think that it was
probably a good decision that we do something about it, and we're
looking forward to our working group session in October, putting some of
it to practice and seeing what happened, fully recognizing that, you
know, there is some risk of doing that. But I think we're prepared to
deal with that.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Can I make an observation here, because --
only because I also saw a draft Commission SRM that sort of raised my
Within NMSS the term we're using is not "public confidence"
but "stakeholder confidence," and the reason I want to -- I think I need
to distinguish is stakeholder confidence includes something which we
call the public, whatever that may be. But in my mind it also for me
and for us it includes the Congress, and our congressional oversight
committees are specific stakeholders that are interested in what we're
doing and give us direction. It includes the Commission. That's a
stakeholder. They give me direction. Licensees who are affected by
what I do, the industries I regulate, the public around the facilities
certainly has a different interest than say public that may not live
around the nuclear facility. The State and local authorities that are
involved with the facilities we regulate. Our technical peers, both in
the United States and worldwide, and things like public utility
So I'm kind of bothered, because when I did the Arthur
Andersen process within NMSS and looked at high-level waste, we were
very explicit in defining our stakeholders. It was not just the public.
There was a category of "the public," but we explicitly said the
Congress, the Commission, the utilities, DOE, EPA. I'm just saying
there's been a -- I'm worried right now with some of the what I see
happening is somehow this is going to public confidence, and I guess you
could use the term. It's almost like the kicking around what a PRA was
yesterday. I kind of look at stakeholder confidence being consciously
aware of some explicit special interest groups out there that we
That's all of my observation.
DR. GARRICK: Well, I think one of the things that a couple
of the speakers observed this morning was the importance of
understanding who the stakeholders are.
DR. PAPERIELLO: That's exactly right.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I don't like the idea of somehow there's a
nebulous public. I think you need -- because in fact there's a lot of
people who probably don't pay attention to us because they don't feel
DR. GARRICK: Yes. Yes. And so I think the outcome of
this, one of the outcomes of this whole exercise is to put us in a
better position to offer advice on stakeholder participation, and we --
again, from the standpoint of technical people and what role the
technical community can play in that overall process.
DR. TRAVERS: I think your expertise may be particularly
valuable in that realm, you know, with scientific peers and some
exploration of communication of risk within that group in particular,
not that it doesn't have importance across all of the organizations that
you were making reference to. Carl, I happen to agree with you. I
think it may be a somewhat a question of semantics, but you participate
in the process. But I think there's a good recognition within the staff
and within the Commission even that stakeholders that we are I won't say
beholden to but the stakeholders who have a stake in the process are
numerous and certainly quite varied and can at times exert great
influence on us in some variety of ways, not the least of which being
authorizing and appropriations.
So, I mean, the Congress, we've certainly identified the
Congress of the United States as an important stakeholder, and the way
in which we communicate with them as we go forward in a number of these
realms, including the one that you've recently proffered to the
Commission, and that is your own strategy for risk-informing and
performance-basing, perhaps, but certainly risk-informing the great
variety of NMSS programs.
I worked in NMSS for just a few years, but I came to
understand after having been in the reactor program for most of my
career the great variety of issues over which that particular program
office, statutory office, has a domain. And in many instances what Carl
is dealing with on a day-to-day basis does not fit so very neatly into
the kinds of categories that we're becoming familiar at least and
discussing in terms of risk for commercial reactor power plants. So
it's even more of a challenge I think as we go forward to look at the
spectrum of activities that you have and find some sort of agreed-upon
basis to which -- you know, for which we can communicate.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: Particularly in a risk-informed way so that we
have a common understanding of some of this. It's going to be vital, I
DR. GARRICK: Yes. Well, I want to make sure that the other
Members of the Committee here are involved in these discussions, so
since we have a chance to talk to these leaders of the Agency, if
there's issues or questions on your minds, don't hesitate to come
One of the difficulties of getting involved in this whole
process is there is a tendency to want to focus, there's a tendency to
want to see some examples, and what we're hopeful of in the working
group session is that while the subject is rather general and broad, the
subject of risk communication, that we can look at it in the context of
a particular issue or a few issues.
One issue that keeps coming up in this business as really
sometimes considered to be a major obstacle and sometimes considered to
be maybe not as current as it ought to be with respect to the risk
perspectives is the issue of transportation.
And I'm reminded of how big of an issue it is by a project
that does not come under the auspices of the NRC but rather the EPA, and
that is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, and the old joke at WIPP for a
long time was that the repository has been certified, but the waste has
not. And so we had essentially a repository with nothing to put in it.
Well, fortunately most of those obstacles have been overcome
and material is on the move somewhat to the repository. But one of the
components for which there were lots of questions and lots of confusion
was the transportation, and when you start looking at the requirements
in transportation, they come from a whole battery of agencies and
organizations and what have you, and I think we -- in connection with
WIPP we did a count of at one time of requirements that had to be met to
ship material from not very far away, namely Los Alamos to Carlsbad, and
there were something like 4,000 requirements to ship a barrel of
material from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
But when you started peeling away the onion here of the
requirements, you found that a lot of those requirements were kind of
self-imposed and just came about somewhat by rather strange events that
occurred that sometimes didn't have a great deal to do with the issue of
risk or the issue of safety, but were a product of the management
decisions at either the DOE level or the laboratory level or what have
you. And the sorting of those things out finally when it was ready to
ship the material revealed a great opportunity for streamlining the
process, making it simpler without compromising anything to do with
So I'm sure Carl has a lot to say about transportation, but
it is one of the areas that we had identified as possibly being a
rallying point for the discussion, for example, of risk communication,
and I was curious if this is something that you think would be a useful
application for us to consider in our discussions of risk communication.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Well, I think that that would be a good
example, because -- and you're right about the fact that there are a
variety of requirements. Frankly, the lead Federal agency for
transportation of course is the Department of Transportation, not the
NRC, because radioactive material is only one of probably thousands of
listed hazardous materials that go, you know, in commerce and on the
highways, and so there are requirements.
I mean, I had, when I was a section chief and I had to deal
with just ordinary shipments, I had a book about this think on my desk
that listed all the requirements that dealt with transportation. Very
few were toward the NRC requirements. In fact, for most of what we do,
we have a line in Part 71 that says licensees will comply with DOT
requirements. And so if you're looking at Type A shipments, which in
fact the bulk of radioactive material shipments are, when we do an
inspection we're really looking at whether or not people comply with
DOT -- our licensees comply with DOT requirements.
Where we get involved is when -- because DOT says hey, we
don't have the expertise, you do, is when you're dealing with large
quantities. And so when you deal with fissile material or you're
dealing with Class B material, large quantities of material where you
need special packaging and packaging that can survive accidents and the
like, then you wind up -- then we get involved.
So yes, I think that would be a good thing to discuss. We
have raised the issue with IAEA, because by and large our requirements
map IAEA -- international requirements, because transportation is done
not only on a national scale but an international scale. And so one of
the problems you have, for example, is the requirements are not
risk-informed. They are deterministic. And many times they are offered
by certain national authorities and enough people decide hey, that
sounds like a good idea, we do it. And it doesn't have the kind of --
DR. TRAVERS: Some of them aren't really technically based.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Right. So that sort of thing. So it's
an -- I think it's an interesting area, and I think it's clear from the
pblic interactions I have had that that is going to be a major issue, in
whether or not you have central interim storage or --
DR. TRAVERS: Yes. I can't think of a, you know, aside from
perhaps the repository itself, you know, where risk communication comes
into play or will come into play in a more important way. I happen to
be -- one of my previous jobs was at Three Mile Island. I was stationed
on site for 3-1/2 years. And one of the things that came up in the
context of my tour up there was the shipment of the damaged core off to
Idaho. And perhaps nothing since the accident garnered as much
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: And concern, not just locally, but all along
the route, as did this plan and the ultimate implementation of the plan
to ship the damaged core off to Idaho. So it became an important realm
in which to communicate well. And I don't know that we did all that
well, frankly. DOE had some primary responsibility. We were at that
time responsible for the certification of the package that was used for
the shipment, ultimately for the equipment that's been used since to
store that material.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: But I think if you look at things like the
atomic train that's on people's minds today, we're hearing stories about
what sort of the story line is associated with that, and its
implausibility, and so there's a real opportunity I think for all of us
to learn and practice, you know, good communications skills as it
relates to risk communication, particularly in the transportation realm.
DR. GARRICK: Yes. The irony here, and Carl's already
alluded to it, is that there's probably no other issue that stirs the
emotions more than the issue of transportation, and not just of nuclear
materials, but all hazardous materials and toxic substances. But on the
other hand, there's probably no other component of the whole
infrastructure of the nuclear program where there's less risk
information in terms of analysis, not necessarily in terms of data, but
in terms of analysis than for transportation. So --
DR. PAPERIELLO: I'm not -- I don't know whether I can agree
DR. GARRICK: Well, that's what I wanted to stir you up on a
DR. PAPERIELLO: Okay. I think there's not only that,
there's a lot of empirical data --
DR. GARRICK: Um-hum.
DR. PAPERIELLO: On it. Because --
DR. GARRICK: Well, that's why --
DR. PAPERIELLO: There is an awful lot of shipments of
waste, high-level waste, ordinary material. I mean, you've got -- I
think you've got a pretty good shape for your risk curve.
DR. GARRICK: Um-hum.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I think you've got a pretty good shape --
which you don't have for a lot of other risks you look at. I mean,
there's -- in fact, one of the things we're going to be doing is
another -- over the next couple of years as we did one several years ago
as a transportation survey to try to get some numbers, how many
shipments per year, and how many -- look at type A shipments, of which
there's millions per year with nothing but ordinary protection. How
many of them cause a problem?
Now you could say well, that's not high-level waste, but you
can certainly take a look at accidents per mile and you can -- and the
packaging, type A packaging, is designed to do certain things. Does it
function as -- I don't know how many crushed packages I wound up
inspecting at O'Hare Airport when I was in Region III many years ago,
not one of which ever leaked. So -- and these are type A packages.
DR. TRAVERS: Is there some work being done to update the
modal study or some of the experience-based --
DR. PAPERIELLO: Well, we're looking at doing that. Right
now it dances around with budget constraints, and we have it budgeted to
do it, and if we can do it sooner than later, we would like to,
particularly if we can get the $4 million that Congress appropriated for
the MPC and get authorization to spend it, we would very much like to do
a redo, and that redo of the modal study involves the cooperation of not
just the NRC but the transportation industry, the rails, the Department
of Transportation. In other words, it's not an NRC stand-alone project.
But I think it would be a good thing for our staff to talk
to you about what we are doing and then look at risk communication but I
think the comment that we don't know that much, I would just have to
disagree with that.
DR. GARRICK: Yes. Well, my comment was not so much that we
don't know. I stated it as an exception, the observation -- the data
that we had -- my comment was that it has not been under the microscope
from a risk analysis or risk assessment as much as other components,
even fuel reprocessing facility we have done specific, plant-specific
risk assessments for and fuel fabrication facilities and storage
facilities, and now disposal facilities. They have all had accompanying
with them major probabilistic based either performance assessments or
DR. PAPERIELLO: About two years ago we had a presentation
here by I am going to say the Department of Transportation, the people
who deal with rails, and they not only can show you, they can pull up on
the computer not only where all the rails are. They can actually give
you the risk of an accident, actuarial data, on a segment by segment
section of track, because this is the time we were looking at -- there
were issues raised over the transportation of foreign reactor fuel from
California up to Idaho Falls, so there is a lot out there.
DR. GARRICK: So this raises the real question of then why
is there such an absolute fear of transportation accidents where we
have, we actually have actuarial data, we have lots of information, even
though maybe we don't have a lot of the analysis that I alluded to
earlier. Why is that so? Is this just a risk communication problem?
DR. PAPERIELLO: I think that it deals with emotions. Many
years ago -- many, many years ago -- when I was in Region III I met with
the Aurora City Council. A rail line went through the town bringing
spent fuel to G.E. Morris and it was a question of risk. Now having
lived in the Midwest for 15 years, for which there are very few
overpasses or underpasses, and watching crossing gates go down and start
counting the diamonds, the hazardous material diamonds on rail cars that
go by you, there's rarely a train goes by that you don't see the
diamonds, and so then I raised that.
The city fathers couldn't see the fact that -- I mean in the
Midwest at least you will see large railcars of propane go through the
suburbs. Now what happens if a railcar goes over and a spark hits?
Does that meet the same test standards as a spent fuel canister? I can
assure you it doesn't but, you know, if that -- people don't do
quantitative risk analysis. I think you are reaching people on an
DR. TRAVERS: No, when you are in transportation you are in
the mode of delivering the goods into the neighborhood. It's a question
of optics and my back yard comes into play even if you can discount the
likelihood of a problem with a repository for example, I think many more
people along the route will have legitimate concerns in their minds,
concerns about the risks attendant to the shipment of this material to
the repository, so I think that is the context.
It doesn't mean that you can't overcome that to some extent.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: I think some of what has been done in the
Department of Energy films for example that have shown some of these
packages withstanding tremendous impacts --
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: -- you know, at 80-90 miles an hour when shown
to people had a pretty strong impact. It doesn't mean everybody gets to
see them though.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: And so your sort of base case without that
kind of communication is natural fear of hazardous waste and nuclear
waste even more as you get into transportation.
DR. GARRICK: But in any event, if we were to utilize
transportation as a model for our risk communication discussions, you
agree that it would be a reasonable one, a reasonable choice.
There was something else that we were talking about
MR. LARSON: Yes. Groundwater had been mentioned because it
is such a major issue to the people in Nevada, in the West in general
but in Nevada in particular.
DR. GARRICK: Amargosa.
DR. TRAVERS: You mean in terms of the risk communication
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: Oh, yes, that's certainly -- it has direct
applicability certainly to --
DR. GARRICK: Well, I guess what we would like to be darn
sure is that if there are some issues that you haven't seen on our list
or that we don't have in Tier 1 that you see coming up that we ought to
be alert to, this is among the times to mention them to us because --
when is our next planning exercise, Lynn? October?
MS. DEERING: September.
DR. GARRICK: September? Yes. So we will obviously review
the operating plan. Do you have -- yes -- yes?
DR. TRAVERS: I am not sure that we have identified, in fact
I think we haven't identified, but I think this is a reasonable list,
you know, our sort of entreaty to you would be to give -- and I think
you have done that relatively will -- to give principal focus to the
kinds of things we have been talking about that have the most direct
applicability, some of the deliverables that we have.
I notice in your plan you have outcome stated --
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: -- and strategies -- I think that may not be
exactly the word you used, but I think that is a good tool for helping
you focus and give us an opportunity to identify where your focus is and
give you some input on that. I trust we have been doing that all along.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. HORNBERGER: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: And we will certainly work with you to
continue that. It's been working well.
I would be curious in terms of your question to me about
coordination and whether or not the committee feels that you have had
the kind of support and coordination from the Staff that you need to
plan and to ultimately implement the kinds of reviews that you are most
DR. GARRICK: Yes, we certainly have, and as a matter of
fact our one exposure to risk communication out in Amargosa Valley last
year, where Mike Bell accompanied us, that turned out to be a very
valuable resource when we got into the discussions with the ranchers and
the people that lived locally. It was extremely helpful, and we have
excellent cooperation with the Staff, getting information and
accompanying us on such missions and discussions.
I think that we wanted to be darn sure that we were not
doing was -- we wanted to be sure we were doing was communicating with
the management on some sort of a periodic basis to make sure we weren't
missing some issues at your level that perhaps we did not have as much
direct information on as we might get directly from you. So, no, we
have been very pleased with the coordination and cooperation of the
DR. TRAVERS: Good. Well, I have a pretty direct link to
Carl here and so we have had the good fortune to be able to coordinate
provide, you know, in the main, information through Carl and John
Greeves, of course, to the committee and we would propose to do that in
the norm and be happy to come and sit with the committee from time to
time and mare sure that we are in contact.
DR. GARRICK: Right. And a regular agenda item for the
committee is to chat with John Greeves.
DR. TRAVERS: I know.
DR. GARRICK: Essentially at every -- all of our meetings.
And he has been very helpful on keeping us fully abreast of what his
anxieties and concerns are.
DR. TRAVERS: Right. Jim Blaha in my office helps
coordinate the list of agenda items that we would recommend be included
for your consideration on your meeting list.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: And that is a direct result of the kind of
continuous sort of interaction the senior management team has through
DR. GARRICK: Right. Right.
DR. TRAVERS: And his team. From our perspective, it is
DR. GARRICK: Charles?
DR. FAIRHURST: I know that the main issue with Yucca
Mountain right now is the TSPA and the long-term releases, the long-term
does. And this mainly out of my ignorance, not -- I don't say anything
is not being done that should be done, I just don't know. But the
period of operation and pre-closure is going to be a significant period,
50 to 100 years, and there is a lot of things that will be included in
the license application which will relate to the operation of that place
and the potential for retrievability and what you do with unshielded
casks and tunnels, and if the roof falls in, how do you go in there and
get it fixed and so on.
How is NOC staff positioned to look at the adequacy of what
is being proposed or not proposed?
DR. PAPERIELLO: What I plan on doing is swiping a bunch of
people out of the spent fuel transportation section, because, in fact,
we are licensing all the things you would do above ground or in movement
in the operating phase of Yucca Mountain, we already doing. I mean, you
know, we are already licensing. People are already taking spent fuel
out of reactors, putting them in the canisters, sealing up the
canisters, moving the canisters around, unloading canisters, that is all
DR. TRAVERS: Is there any dry transfer systems on --
DR. PAPERIELLO: The dry transfer system is being reviewed
DR. TRAVERS: I see.
DR. PAPERIELLO: So the point is, because resources were
very limited in high level waste, we have concentrated, up to now at
least, all our efforts in that particular area in post-closure, because
there are all the arguments. How can you predict for 10,000 years?, and
things like that. But I am not ignoring the above ground and the below
ground, the operational aspects, because the operational aspects will be
-- but the operational aspects are ongoing right now. Pieces of them
are going in different places. People handle spent fuel.
DR. FAIRHURST: But you will hear assurances from DOE, and I
am not saying they are not right. For example, if they decide to
backfill, I am saying it will not be any big deal to remotely backfill
160 drifts --
DR. PAPERIELLO: DOE has not made a decision whether they
are going to backfill or not.
DR. FAIRHURST: I know they have not. But that is -- you
know, does NRC understand the possibility of backfilling remotely and so
on, or not backfilling? I have not seen it done before but maybe it is
being done, I don't know.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Well, I can't give -- my staff might be
able to give the answer, I can't.
MR. REAME: I think the answer is that we are waiting for
that design decision, including the timing of the backfill in order to
get a context to respond. We would like to see the proposal kind of
settle down into a firm proposal.
DR. FAIRHURST: I understand what you are saying.
DR. TRAVERS: Let me ask Dr. Fairhurst, is there a unique
aspect that your concern suggests we might want to be thinking about
today that is associated with either remote backfill or the implications
of some of that? I was just curious about where your line of inquiry
DR. FAIRHURST: Well, there has been a big discussion of
late about, for example, the initial design had a concrete liner and
there is a great deal of concern that concrete wasn't the right thing to
put into the drifts, and to take it out.
Then there was a suggestion that, from the drift stability
panel, that they could use grouted bolts and that that would be
preferable. There was a big tug of war about that. And one of the
arguments was, well, what is going to happen if there are some rockfalls
which interfere with operations, how do we go in there and fix it? We
have this blast cooling because it would be hot. It is just a whole
suite of things that -- it would be the first high level waste
repository in the world.
I am not saying it is not going to be done, I am just
interested in that I would suspect there will be a fair number of things
that won't go right the first time and there are unshielded canisters,
at least in the present design. What is the worker exposure? What is
the -- again, Carl may be right that, you know, you have operated
reactors and spent fuel pools and so on for a long time and most of the
issues that will be raised though have already been raised.
DR. TRAVERS: Yes, but sort of as a more fundamental and
practical issue, given the failure at least -- not failure, but the lack
of a definitive design having been decided upon, --
DR. FAIRHURST: No, I understand that.
DR. TRAVERS: -- we are put in the position of not being
able really to sort of explore some of the paths that may ultimately be
the ones that are decided upon.
I was just wondering if you had identified an issue that you
believe warrants some particular early-on consideration that might be
fundamental to one of the options, including backfill, that DOE is
DR. GARRICK: I think one of the things that we talk a lot
about as a committee is the question of what can we learn during the
pre-closure period and during -- that is, during the operations, that
will allow us to reduce some of the uncertainties associated with the
long-term performance. And while the NRC is neither operating nor
designing this facility, and not the licensee, but rather the regulator,
even the regulator would like to have their knowledge enhanced as much
as possible about whether there are some things in operations that they
ought to be thinking about, dealing with, that could in fact impact the
whole licensing review process.
If we are really thinking from a risk perspective, we know
that the long-term performance is going to be accompanied with a
considerable amount of uncertainty. Now, what are the contributors to
that uncertainty? And are any of those contributors anything we can do
anything about during the pre-closure phase? So we have found a lot of
those in the WIPP facility, for example.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Right.
DR. GARRICK: And so the question is, is there a lesson
learned here for Yucca Mountain?
DR. PAPERIELLO: I would say on a generic basis, I would not
be surprised that if, in fact, we do complete a licensing action for
Yucca Mountain and find it acceptable, it is conceivable that we would
put license conditions on them that would require further studies.
Now, I am going to -- just based on my background, I am well
aware that in the licensing of many of the reactors in this country,
there were significant numbers of environmental studies that were
mandated in those early licenses, because I can remember, when I first
joined the agency as an inspector in '75, going out on environmental
inspections where people were doing -- looking at the impact of, you
know, hot water discharged into the Chesapeake here. I remember going
-- in fact, getting rather sick going between hot and cold places at
Calvert Cliffs back in December of '75. But, you know, visiting, going
out to where people had stations and that was just -- that was that
And I would not be surprised. I don't know what the range
of issues are. In other words, I don't know what the range of issues
that still might be cloudy by the time we get to an application in the
year 2002, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were issues after -- if
we did have a successful licensing action there would not be license
conditions that you would have to do further monitoring, further
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I am not saying there will be, I'm just
saying if it happened, it wouldn't be the first, you know, there is
precedent in prior licensing.
DR. GARRICK: Yes. I think the notion that we keep thinking
about is we're so used to now as far as Yucca Mountain is concerned
thinking about tens of thousands of years and maybe even hundreds of
thousands of years that we have a tendency maybe sometimes, and this is
just something we're suggesting, to not look at the 50 to 200 or 300
years that this thing may be in an operating mode, in which case it
would be a situation where we would be licensing something longer than
the NRC has ever licensed anything. And that activity is coming up on
us much sooner --
DR. PAPERIELLO: Well, I would argue with that. We have
licensed things perpetually. As a general license --
DR. GARRICK: That involve operations perpetually?
DR. PAPERIELLO: There is -- Part 40 gives DOE a perpetual
license, general license, for mill tailings. I mean, I'm just saying
psychologically. I understand differences between --
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Operations and -- but in fact we in fact
have perpetual licenses out there today for DOE for mill tailings piles.
DR. GARRICK: But I guess I see here an actual operating
DR. PAPERIELLO: Well --
DR. GARRICK: It's a little different.
DR. PAPERIELLO: There is annual inspection and if need be
maintenance, and there are trust funds set up for that.
DR. GARRICK: Um-hum. Um-hum.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I understand what you're saying.
DR. GARRICK: Well, maybe all we need to hear as a committee
is more about this experience base that you refer to. We have discussed
the kinds of activities that are going to be going on, especially when
you sort of look at the materials issue, risk issue, versus say the
reactor-risk issue, the real risk in materials is probably not in the
upset conditions, it's in the operations. And --
DR. PAPERIELLO: That's very true.
DR. GARRICK: So if you have something that's contemplating
a real operation where they're moving material and they're dealing with
high-level waste and there's heavy equipment and there's long working
cycles involved, and if you really have a risk perspective, you might
conclude from a back-of-the-envelope analysis that the real risk of
Yucca Mountain is going to be that first 50 to 300 years. I'm just --
DR. PAPERIELLO: I would suspect in terms of radiation
exposure that's certainly true.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: And probably when you start looking at even
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I mean, I'm aware of people being killed in
nuclear power plants, never from radiation, but people have fallen --
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. PAPERIELLO: People have had electrocution. People have
been burned in steam ruptures.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I'm aware of one individual who may have
been horseplay with helium and suffocated. So you've had things that
are in the realm of industrial accidents, ordinary, you know, if you
want to use such a term, ordinary industrial accidents. And I would not
be surprised in the operation of -- clearly in the operation of Yucca
Mountain in the operating phase that is going to probably be the
greatest risk in terms to human beings; the environmental risk and the
risk to people offsite will be far less than the risk to the workers.
And it would be a combination of radiation -- well, even now, if you go
Yucca Mountain, I mean, what do you do? You get indoctrinated on
underground mine safety. You walk in with hard hats. You have a mine
rescue thing you wear on your belt. So it's clear that there are risks
in there that are industrial risks.
DR. FAIRHURST: Another slightly different aspect of that is
the, you know, the DOE's own TSPA review group, who are critical of the
lack of real data on which some of the isolation dose estimates were
made. We don't have any real data to support -- there's not enough real
And the TRB recently came out and said that to submit the
license by 2002 is on a very ambitious schedule. And one way one could
interpret some of that is to say that there's a certain amount of --
minimum amount of data that is going to be required before they would
think it was reasonable to give a license, in the context of saying but
on the other hand there's a 100-year period here where I know from my
point of view I think there's a lot that could be done during that
period that could actually not be done before. For example, if you want
to get better insights into the water flow pathways during the time it's
heating up, it would be useful to have maybe some observation drifts
that were in a region that got hot but was not exposed to radiation.
So maybe I'm asking is NRC thinking about what information
they will require, because they're getting -- and this is part of what
Cal you're saying about maybe requiring something, you know, to be
confirmed down the road or something. But I think a real perspective on
data, there is some data or are some data that cannot be reasonably
gotten before they start stuffing waste in there. During the period in
which they can take it out if something's not going right. You know, I
don't think -- one of the big issues is how much water is going to drop
on the canisters. And I don't want to go into it long --
DR. PAPERIELLO: Let me comment on that. I could ask Bill
there what thought we've given -- have we given any thought to it?
MR. REAME: Really the first point that the Commission goes
on record is the site recommendation stage in 2001 where the statute
requires that it provide its comments on the sufficiency of the data
that the DOE has put together. We are right now working on a plan and a
set of steps, a plan and a set of steps that we will bring to the
Committee and coordinate with you, but the short answer is yes, we are
thinking about that question.
DR. FAIRHURST: Okay.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Now I'll make a comment on it. I think it
would be very -- I don't think we could make a licensing decision and
say go ahead and give a licensing -- a construction permit and then say
and we'll give you six more years to gather the data to make your safety
DR. FAIRHURST: No. Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: You're going to have to establish your
safety basis, confidence that you can meet the standard --
DR. FAIRHURST: Sure.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Before we issue a construction permit. If
in the framework of say the -- since we're dealing with performance
assessment in a probabilistic distribution, you turn around and say it
would be very nice, and you can establish a cost-benefit -- a reason for
narrowing, you know, that fuzziness down, then you can certainly
condition the construction authorization for continued, you know, to get
DR. FAIRHURST: Um-hum.
DR. PAPERIELLO: So, I mean, I think right now it's
premature to say this is the data you're going to have to gather before
you get your license, and here's your program after you get your
license. A lot depends upon when I'm ready to license. I'm just making
something up. If in fact I can use a lot of incredibly conservative
bounding conditions and still show that I meet the performance
DR. FAIRHURST: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Whereas from a scientific viewpoint it
might be nice to gather a lot more data over the next 100 years and
somebody might do it, for me as a regulator to require a licensee to do
it, I don't think I could make the case based on cost-benefit. I mean,
I would have an obligation under risk-informed regulation to, you know,
maybe it's scientifically nice, but I don't need it.
On the other hand, it would be inappropriate I think if
well, we can't make it, but we think if we do six more years of work,
give us a construction permit and take us on -- maybe we'll make it, you
DR. FAIRHURST: No.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Do you see what I'm saying?
DR. FAIRHURST: Let me give you another example, though.
Let me give you another example.
Sorry, am I --
DR. GARRICK: No, go ahead.
DR. FAIRHURST: One of the ideas now is to put a titanium
drip shield, and the price estimate right now is about $4-1/2 billion.
Now if they come in with a license application and say we'll put the
shield in and that shield will take care of it, however, if certain
things show up that we don't need it, can we go ahead? That to me is a
more realistic -- and some other option which costs a billion is going
to take care of the problem.
DR. PAPERIELLO: And I'll make another observation. It is
possible that I come up with an engineering design to compensate for
uncertainties in knowledge of the geological system that in fact is
cost-beneficial to the applicant over the next 20 years to reduce the
uncertainty in the geological system. I know we're defaulting to a lot
of conservative parameters. When we don't know, we default
conservative. So what happens is over the next 20 years after I give a
construction permit, if that happens, I turn around and measure these
things and find out you're right, I don't need your drip shield. I
understand that. And I can also see, thinking about that thing being
open for 50 years, God knows what will be done in materials research.
DR. FAIRHURST: Sure. Waste canisters --
DR. PAPERIELLO: In terms of waste canisters. For all I
know, they'll grow some fiber canister which will have all kinds of
wonderful, you know -- I don't know. You know, I would be --
DR. FAIRHURST: There is somewhat a precedent with the
Swedes saying we're going to use a copper canister, and then find out
it's going to take half the mines in the world to supply the canister.
But -- and break the bank at the same time. But they did propose
something that convinced the public that there was a technical solution
available. It may not be cost-effective, but now we've got some time to
work on perhaps ways of coming back from that. And that's a little bit
how I see the titanium shield. Nobody said anything to me. You know, I
view that, I think it's in concert with what you're saying, that you're
going with something that will work, and as time goes on, it would not
be appropriate really to tell someone, you know, that we can't save some
money by doing this with a new material or whatever.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I fully expect if a safety case can be made
and we do certify Yucca Mountain as a high-level waste repository and
this place operates for 50 or 100 years, that certificate, that license,
like a lot of other licenses, will be amended. And I couldn't begin to
foresee the changes. But I could see changes because of materials, I
could see changes due to our knowledge of, you know, the geological
setting, any number of reasons I could --
DR. TRAVERS: It's fair to say our focus right now
principally is on that safety case for the --
DR. PAPERIELLO: The initial safety case.
DR. TRAVERS: Philosophically I think what I heard Dr.
Fairhurst agree to is that we have to be able to when we license that
facility it's with that confidence --
DR. FAIRHURST: Couldn't do it with something that might
DR. TRAVERS: And then after that I think there are a number
of different issues that arise that could be potentially optimized or --
DR. GARRICK: I guess the question is can the safety case
have design flexibility in it. Can the safety case have design
flexibility, or do you have to come with a fixed design?
DR. PAPERIELLO: I think you can have variable designs, but
you can't turn around and say we want permission to use these ten
designs, but we don't know which one will make -- I think you need to be
able to show you can in fact make the safety case.
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. TRAVERS: With whatever range --
DR. PAPERIELLO: With whatever range of designs you want to
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. PAPERIELLO: I don't think -- I don't think, I mean, I
don't want to prejudge anything at this point, but I don't think I could
turn around, I'm not sure a licensing board would be willing to grant a
construction permit on a promise.
DR. GARRICK: Well, there is a --
DR. PAPERIELLO: You know, in the sense -- what I mean is we
can't show we meet the standard, but let us start, and we expect in
three years to turn around.
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. PAPERIELLO: We have not done that I'm aware of in the
DR. GARRICK: But in the old days there used to be something
called a provisional construction permit. So there is a precedent for
DR. PAPERIELLO: Before I would even think about that, I'd
have to talk to --
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: And the five Commissioners as well.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Right.
DR. FAIRHURST: When we had I'll call it corrosion experts
here, I remember Staley saying hell, we'll be at least seven -- I don't
know he picked seven -- but seven changes of canister design before they
get the right one, based on design and any other, you know, reactor
design too that changes.
DR. GARRICK: Yes, I think the reason this is such a big
issue on this one is because of the costs that are involved, number 1,
and, number 2, because of the long period prior to the closure, and the
benefit that may accrue to the public from having design flexibility. I
think it is a little different facility than anything we have ever
DR. PAPERIELLO: I know, but I have to -- whatever I do has
to be in accordance with, you know, what the Congress has legislated,
And as I said, I don't think we can issue -- where I do
expect design to change after we issue a license, particularly when you
look at 50 years, and as I said we can learn more about the geology over
the next 50 years and in fact I think more materials.
I just think of the evolution of materials over the last 50
DR. FAIRHURST: We didn't have C-22 fifty years ago, did we?
DR. PAPERIELLO: Yes. It's just that, and synthetic
materials and we build aircraft out of carbon fibers and things like
I mean material science is very likely to change over the
next 50 years and wouldn't we allow a change in a canister design
because somebody designed one with a material that is much, much better?
But I think you have to make the safety case at the time of licensing.
You could conceivably condition a license where there's uncertainties,
where it is expected that the uncertainties would be resolved favorably.
As I said, we have conditioned reactor licenses years ago
when we started them up to do environmental studies, probably other
things too -- the environmental studies I am much aware of because
that's one of the areas that I inspected in.
DR. GARRICK: Ray?
DR. WYMER: Yes. I would like to drop down a level or two
from these important technical issues and get down in the area of our
interactions, if I can, for a minute.
In doing it, I want to return to this topic of
communication, with maybe a different twist. In order to be effective
you have to effectively communicate. We communicate with you people and
we want to communicate effectively with you people.
John has already mentioned Mike Bell's contribution the last
time we were out in Nevada and had that open meeting to the public, but
in addition to providing technical expertise we got Mike to sort of give
us his take on how we communicate with you folks, and it was very
enlightening and it sensitized us a little bit to the way that we
One of the things he said, for example, is it would be nice
if when we write our letters if we would acknowledge that we weren't the
first people in the world who ever thought of this. Maybe one or two of
the Staff might have had an inkling about it a little earlier. He also
made the point that an 'atta boy once in awhile wouldn't be amiss, you
know, where we thought the Staff had done something particularly well.
What I am leading up to is I think there is room for
improved communication. There always is, and the more effectively we
communicate, the more likely you are to receive our communications in
the way we want you to receive them, so either now or some time in the
not too distant future it would be nice if we got some feedback from you
on how we might be more effective, things we might do, the way we might
put things -- anything you could think of, it would make our input more
palatable, more acceptable, and improve the communications process.
DR. TRAVERS: We will take that as an assignment. I think
that is a good request. I think it is something that we should
reasonably do and I would like to be involved in it with Carl and the
senior management team, because that is an invitation to even further
better the good relationship I think we have.
I will be honest. There was a time not too many years ago
when dealing with ACRS, that the relationship between the Staff and the
ACRS was not that good. We had a number of problems. We couldn't seem
to overcome them. That has changed, changed dramatically, and so your
entreaty to us that we continue not to ignore the way -- you know, if
you are going to take on communication in its broader sense we have got
to make sure that we are communicating well at the start.
I think that is a good point and at the same time we would
ask for your consideration and any input, criticisms, what have you,
that relate to the way we provide information to the committee, the
kinds of briefings, the level, and so forth.
DR. LARKINS: One recent model that you might think about is
when we did the viability assessment there was a lot of interaction
between the committee as a whole, individual committee members, with
Staff, and I think it aided in a better understanding of the Staff's
views of DOE's VA and also the committee's views on the VA, and I think
it helped present a good picture or story to the Commission.
You know, we didn't agree with everything, but there was a
lot of agreement and it led to a good report.
It was very resource-intensive. I would like to get some
feedback some time if that's -- you know, something we might want to
consider in the future as we do the draft environmental impact
statement, the site recommendation review, and some of these other
things which are coming down the pike which will probably take a lot of
time and resources, so, Carl or Bill, if you think that type of
interaction is useful in the future, it would be worthwhile knowing, and
there are things, other things like the research report or some of these
other activities in decommissioning I think, because right now I see
more work on the committee's plate than it might be able to handle in
the future at the current level.
DR. TRAVERS: Yes, and we are obviously -- I mean your
activities take support from us as well, so we are obviously in
self-interest looking to optimize the relationship in a way that
optimizes our resource expenditure as well.
DR. GARRICK: We have identified a couple of resources that
are very important to our planning process. One of course is the
operations report that Carl spoke of earlier, and the other is exactly
what we are doing now, having this kind of exchange, and of course that
extends to the other Staff members in exchanges we have.
Is there any other mechanism or resource that we should be
consulting or be aware of in doing our planning, because the planning
exercise is very critical in establishing on the basis of the best
evidence that we can pull together what our priorities are going to be
for the following year or some similar period of time -- are we missing
a resource or is there anything else --
DR. PAPERIELLO: While I am thinking about it, an obvious
thought came in now.
I think I know I have not met with you very much because I
have issues with my own staff on decommissioning for example. I am very
concerned about modelling. I am very concerned about what I consider
excruciating conservatism in the name of screening models.
You know, if I plug natural background into a code and I
wind up getting a number that is almost an order of magnitude greater
than what I know natural background to be, I mean we know very, very
well what the dose is in the United States from uranium, thorium, and
radium in the soil. We measured it, not only measured external dose but
we have done autopsies on people and all that we know to dose.
When we go to model and you turn around and look at the
parameters we are defaulting to, and you wind up getting a dose out of
it that is an order of magnitude greater than what we have measured --
you have got to ask whether that is a bit -- I don't mind a factor of
two but an order of magnitude sort of bothers me when you go to default
the screening -- finite areas.
I just think -- to me decommissioning is a big deal, because
Yucca Mountain may be three years from now and decommissioning is right
now. How do I handle reality? The reality at least around the nuclear
plant, I got a ditch, I got an underground pipe, I got a tank that
DR. TRAVERS: In terms of their planning, is there
DR. PAPERIELLO: Yes, but I don't know how much of this my
staff has relayed that to you. Certainly I have relayed it to my staff.
It occurred to me that we don't have enough interactions where I could
kind of give you my stand on some of these things.
DR. GARRICK: So Carl, what you are suggesting is maybe we
need to step up this kind of interaction?
DR. PAPERIELLO: Yes. I was thinking about that, you know.
Maybe I'll steal some of John Greeves' time.
DR. GARRICK: Yes, yes.
DR. FAIRHURST: Please do.
DR. LARKINS: I think that would be useful --
@@ DR. LARKINS: Yes, I think it would be. We had a
presentation on all the decommissioning activities and it was several
pages of potential Reg Guides and changes in the regulations and I now
understand that there is an initiative underway to look at
risk-informing the decommissioning regulations as related to Part 50.
That is something we probably would be interesting between the two
committees to look at.
DR. GARRICK: Yes, that is another thing. We have the
precedents now of joint committee, joint subcommittee between the two
advisory committees, but one of the things that I want to comment
maybe -- and just about in closing here -- is that this committee has
the same anxieties that you just expressed about decommissioning, and
the screening process.
DR. PAPERIELLO: Let me give you a challenge -- you
technical experts. What can I do to fix it?
DR. GARRICK: Yes.
DR. PAPERIELLO: You know, it doesn't do you or me a whole
lot of good to get a letter saying --
DR. FAIRHURST: -- this is a problem.
DR. PAPERIELLO: -- saying this is a problem, you ought to
fix it, because I know it is a problem. I am looking for somebody to
tell me how to fix it.
DR. FAIRHURST: We'll send it back.
DR. GARRICK: They do. They do send them back.
DR. PAPERIELLO: It is -- I am serious. I mean to me this
is the challenge. What has somebody done somewhere else? I mean I love
to steal. I mean we don't have a big enough staff to rediscover the
wheel around here, so the question is what is -- I find it hard to
believe I am the only person who is raising these questions.
I think in the whole world somebody ought to be trying to
work -- I mean I am not confining myself to the United States. There
are a lot of smart people overseas. I can't be the only person thinking
of this. What are people doing?
DR. GARRICK: Okay. Well, I think we have gotten some ideas
and we will take your advice as well in trying to figure out how we can
get the maximum amount of input into our decision-making process for
priorities, and also, as we say in our plan, that once we make a
decision about Tier 1 and Tier 2 priorities that doesn't mean we are
inflexible, that Tier 2 priorities can't jump up to Tier 1.
The important thing is that the committee be prepared to
address any issue that comes up from any of the three sources that we
We appreciate the time. It is a very generous amount of
time on a busy schedule, and are there any other final comments,
questions from either the committee or the Staff?
We want to, if not, thank you again and look forward to
doing this again relatively soon.
DR. TRAVERS: We also thank you for the opportunity to meet
with you. As I said, this is my first opportunity. I did attend the
Commission meeting --
DR. GARRICK: Right.
DR. TRAVERS: -- where you briefed the Commission on some of
your activities and I have had a chance to read over a number of things
that speak to your contributions and we certainly appreciate them and I
look forward to working with you in the future.
DR. HORNBERGER: Thanks.
DR. GARRICK: I think even though it is not shown on our
agenda, I am going to declare a 15-minute recess.
[Whereupon, at 3:02 p.m., the recorded part of the meeting
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