The Hearing Process

Hearings are conducted in accordance with the Rules of Practice established in 10 CFR Part 2 of NRC's regulations. To learn more about the NRC's rules of practice that govern the conduct of NRC hearings, the NRC has provided resources for understanding 10 CFR Part 2. For information about decisions resulting from these hearings, see our Hearing Decisions page.

The NRC's hearing process makes it possible for the public to get a full and fair hearing on civilian nuclear matters. Administrative judges from the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) generally conduct these hearings. On rare occasions the Commission itself may preside at a hearing. The ASLBP's judges are employees of the NRC; however, under NRC rules and under the Administrative Procedure Act, they are independent from the NRC staff. The judges have no stake in the outcome of a proceeding, and reach objective decisions based on the record.

The Commission entertains appeals and petitions for review of the decisions of the ASLBP. A special Commission office (Office of Commission Appellate Adjudication) assists the Commission in these reviews by analyzing the cases, determining the legal options for a final decision, and drafting decisions for the Commission in accordance with the Commission's guidance. The Secretary of the Commission maintains the files for NRC's licensing and enforcement adjudications, known as the Adjudicatory Docket.

To participate in NRC hearings, members of the public must explain the nature of their interest in the proposed NRC licensing or enforcement action and set forth the reasons and bases for their concerns. Generally, hearings are sought by those who reside or work near an affected nuclear facility and who believe that a proposed action raises environmental or safety questions. Participants in NRC hearings have included individuals, citizen groups, private businesses, and governmental bodies. For more on how to become involved in the hearing process regulations see our page on Public Involvement in Hearings page.

NRC's regulations in 10 CFR Part 2 specify different types of hearing processes for different types of agency actions. For some cases, particularly in the enforcement and certain reactor licensing areas, the NRC employs a formal, trial-type process similar to the procedures used in non-jury Federal court lawsuits, including pre-trial discovery between the parties and questioning of witnesses at an evidentiary hearing. In most cases, however, the NRC follows a more informal hearing process. Decisions of licensing boards can be appealed to the Commisson, and Commission decisions can be appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals.