Using Technology

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The NRC has embarked upon a transformation effort to become a modern, risk-informed regulator. To achieve our vision, we are using technology to work smarter, including using data analytics to identify areas for regulatory attention and improvement.

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Using Technology to Work Smarter

The Technology Adoption transformation initiative is focused on ensuring that information technology is used effectively to have a maximum impact on day-to-day agency work. The technology adoption initiative enables staff to easily and efficiently complete their work, increase adoption of new and existing technology throughout the NRC, and train staff to modernize the way they work. We have made great improvements using available technology tools to work smarter. For example, we have increased our use of Microsoft Office 365 productivity tools to enhance collaboration among employees. In addition, the Technology Adoption initiative team launched a series of trainings, and has established an IT network of experts to share insights on the use of these tools. Before the COVID-19 public health emergency started, the initiative team had already conducted over 91 training sessions on Microsoft Office 365 to more than 3,200 participants. This was crucial as the agency moved to mandatory telework, as the training helped to provide a smooth transition.

The NRC is also exploring the use of in-field mobile solutions for inspectors. Over the past three years, NRC inspectors have noted an increase in the use of technology platforms by reactor, materials, and waste licensees. During 2019, some of our regional inspectors participated in a mobile technology pilot to use tablets and iPads to conduct inspections at licensee facilities. Inspectors provided valuable feedback on ways to expand and enhance mobile solutions for inspections and other field work. The agency continues to explore mobile solutions to increase our effectiveness in meeting our important safety and security mission.

Technology Adoption during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

In March 2020, the NRC began full-time telework due to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Our top priority was to ensure the health and safety of our employees. From March 2020 – June 2020, there was a significant increase in technology adoption agency-wide to meet our important safety and security mission. The work started by the Technology Adoption initiative team allowed us to quickly transition to working remotely. During the COVID-19 PHE, there have been over 2,700 daily users connected to the NRC's network, with a range of 30,000-54,000 daily instant messages between staff. Staff conduct more than 850 daily internal conference meetings and collaborate and share over 1,500 files daily using SharePoint and OneDrive

Staff adapted to different technology platforms, such as WebEx, to continue to engage our licensees and other external stakeholders during the COVID-19 PHE. Senior managers and staff quickly realized that we needed to develop centralized, user-friendly, information pages to effectively communicate with our stakeholders. The NRC COVID-19 Update page provides information regarding significant NRC actions related to operating reactors, nuclear materials, emergency preparedness (EP) and security. The page for Operating Reactors includes online portals that allow licensees to electronically submit relief requests for exemptions to some of our regulations. The Nuclear Materials page provide information to byproduct material, uranium recovery, decommissioning, fuel facilities, and spent fuel storage licensees regarding the evaluation of relief requests for exemptions to some of our regulations. In addition, the Nuclear Materials page includes an online submission portal for these licensees, as well as information for the Agreement States. The Security and EP page provide information regarding power reactor training, qualifications for personnel performing security duties, EP biennial exercise postponement, and emergency plan requirements.

During the COVID-19 PHE, staff has conducted virtual pre-licensing meetings, virtual annual assessment meetings, and virtual public meetings with licensees, members of the public, and other stakeholders to keep them informed and updated on our regulatory activities.

Using Data Analytics for Regulatory Enhancements

Advances in technology are enabling NRC staff to use data analytics to comb through large amounts of data and synthesize that data into user-friendly information. The development and use of data analytics tools are a top priority and a necessity for doing business as a modern, risk-informed regulator. We are developing tools to monitor and manage new and operating reactor licensing performance and workload, nuclear materials licensing and performance workload, assess reactor oversight data, and help with budget analysis. Utilizing data and data analysis tools empowers the staff to be better informed, effective, and agile than ever before. Improved access to data also enables us to communicate more effectively with stakeholders about reactor and materials safety issues.

We have increased our pool of data with the digitization of over 1 million microfiche, aperture cards, and old paper documents contained in the Nuclear Document System (NUDOCS) and the collection of Atomic Energy Commission papers into electronic format Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) staff used multipurpose scanners and software with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) for natural-language processing to create high quality digital images with searchable text. The PDFs are uploaded into the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS), making them easily accessible and sharable by the staff, as well as accessible by our external stakeholders.

Additionally, staff in OCIO and the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) are using data analytics to develop nuclear reactors operating experience dashboards. These dashboards give staff centralized access to information, allowing them to view, search, and use relevant operating experience data and trends. With these dashboards, inspectors and technical reviewers can easily see trends at a glance and access resources for in-depth analysis. This information will help us be more risk-informed in our inspection samples and promote risk-informed thinking more broadly throughout the Reactor Safety Program. Similar work is underway within our Nuclear Materials Safety programmatic areas.

Increasing Transparency

The agency has launched a number of activities using modern technologies to increase transparency with our licensees and the public.

On October 1, 2019, the NRC launched eBilling. eBilling is the first web-based application that provides our licensees with immediate delivery of NRC invoices, customizable email notifications, the capability to view and analyze invoice details, and the convenience to pay invoices using this online platform. eBilling provides our licensees with real-time, 24-hour access to their bills. This system provides increased transparency to our licensees—they know which NRC staff is working on their project and how many hours the staff is directly billing. While the public does not have direct access to eBilling, information from the eBilling system was used to develop the FY 2020 Proposed Fee Rule – Federal Register Notice, February 18, 2020 and the FY 2020 Final Fee Rule – Federal Register Notice, June 19,2020. The proposed and final fee rulemaking documents are available to the public.

Additionally, the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) manages and directs the agency's public affairs program, providing advice to agency officials and developing key strategies that contribute to increasing public confidence. This includes keeping top management informed of public interest in and news coverage of NRC's regulatory activities as well as providing timely, clear, and accurate information on NRC activities to the public and the media through news releases, fact sheets, brochures, interviews, Web postings, and social media. Providing timely, clear, and accurate information allows the public, media, and other external stakeholders to stay informed on NRC activities.

On March 25, 2020, OPA launched the #OntheJob initiative to assure the public that the agency remained functioning while the majority of staff were working from home, and to demonstrate that the NRC's vital safety and security mission was being maintained. A Facebook post about a resident inspector working both from home AND the plant was the first post in this initiative. Subsequent social media communication on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn reflected the effectiveness of workers doing various jobs from different areas of the country – including the agency Executive Director for Operations, administrative professionals, emergency responders and various inspectors. This campaign is ongoing and continues to highlight the agency's commitment to implementing our important safety and security mission during the COVID-19 PHE. For more information on NRC actions during the COVID-19 public health emergency, visit the NRC COVID-19 Update page.

See below to learn more about the NRC's transformation journey and focus areas.


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, November 25, 2020