Friday, December 11, 2009

Nuclear energy news comes on Fridays

It’s the slowest day in the weekly news cycle except Saturday

slow news dayUpdate: 12/11/09 (below)

The White House has announced a new nomination for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to replace outgoing former chairman Dale Klein.

Bill Ostendorff is currently the Director of the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy and Director of the Board on Global Science and Technology at the National Academies.

He came to the National Academies after serving as Principal Deputy Administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration from April 2007 until April 2009.

What’s significant about the timing of the announcement is that like the two before it, the White House chose to distribute it to the press on a Friday.

It guarantees the announcement will be lost in the rush to get out the door for the weekend. It ensures a low profile for the news release since any news outlet carrying it will publish on Saturday, the absolute slowest news day of the week.

Now you have to wonder why the White House regards news about nuclear energy, even on the regulatory side, as having all the appeal of folk wisdom about the Reagan Administration’s ruling that catsup is a vegetable?

According to his official bio, Mr. Ostendorff has sterling credentials, including a career in the U.S. Navy, and looks like he’d do well at the NRC. He deserves better.

NRC promotes openness

nrclogoThe White House has found some good news about the NRC. It is featuring a video about changes the agency is making to its web site and its use of Internet technologies to do a better job of public outreach. Also, released on a Friday, the NRC notes that the NRC has created a program to train 14 staff members to facilitate public NRC meetings, in addition to their regular duties.

“They will help ensure meetings are effective, inclusive and fair, and increase the NRC's capacity to collaborate and solve problems with interested stakeholders. The facilitators serve as consultants to the staff members who run the meetings and help ensure that best practices are used appropriately to make meetings more effective.”

I watched one of the NRC’s facilitator staff run a public hearing on the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility in Idaho Falls last June. The facilitator did a terrific job so it is good news the agency wants to do more with this method.

Better web site at NRC

NRC’s web site is now undergoing a major redesign. The redesign, scheduled for implementation in 2010, will improve navigation, appearance, content, usability and accessibility. Part of the redesign will include a significant upgrade to ADAMS, the agency’s online document management system, which will make it more user-friendly, with an improved search capacity.

Also, NRC effectively used Internet technologies to support its workshop on small reactors held last October.

Prior coverage on this blog

See my interview with Dale Klein, then chairman of the NRC, on using Internet technologies to improve public engagement, and a second interview in which Klein talked about “no rabbits out of the hat” as a way to dealing with relicensing information for existing reactors.

And yes, this blog post appeared on a Friday.

Update 12/11/09

The NRC sent this blog an email noting that the press release about the nominee for the commission was actually sent out by the White House late Thursday, It made the Dow Jones News Wires Friday morning.

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