[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 236 (Tuesday, December 8, 2020)]
[Pages 79042-79044]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-26864]




Proposed Evaluation Policy Statement

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Request for comment.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is requesting 
public comment on this proposed Evaluation Policy Statement that 
presents the standards that will govern the NRC's planning, conduct, 
and use of program evaluations. The policy statement is intended to 
provide agency personnel and stakeholders with a clear understanding of 
the expectations related to the NRC's evaluation standards that include 
rigor, relevance and utility, transparency, collaboration, independence 
and objectivity, and ethics.

DATES: Submit comments by January 7, 2021. Comments received after this 
date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the Commission 
is able to ensure consideration only for comments received before this 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2020-0262. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Dawn Forder; telephone: 301-415-3407; 
email: [email protected]. For technical questions contact the 
individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of 
this document.
     Email comments to: [email protected]. If you do 
not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact 
us at 301-415-1677.
     Mail comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and 
Adjudications Staff.
    For additional direction on obtaining information and submitting 
comments, see ``Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments'' in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Matthew Meyer, Office of the Executive 
Director for Operations, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington 
DC 20555-0001, telephone: 301-415-6198, email: [email protected].


I. Obtaining Information and Submitting Comments

A. Obtaining Information

    Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2020-0262 when contacting the NRC 
about the availability of information for this action. You may obtain 
publicly-available information related to this action by any of the 
following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2020-0262.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may obtain publicly-available documents online in the 
ADAMS Public Documents collection at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS 
Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public 
Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, at 301-415-4737, 
or by email to [email protected]. The proposed Evaluation Policy 
Statement is available in ADAMS under Accession number ML20268A811.
     Attention: The Public Document Room (PDR), where you may 
examine and order copies of public documents is currently closed. You 
may submit your request to the PDR via email at [email protected] or 
call 1-800-397-4209 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (EST), Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays.

B. Submitting Comments

    Please include Docket ID NRC-2020-0262 in your comment submission.
    The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact 
information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in your 
comment submission. The NRC will post all comment submissions at 
https://www.regulations.gov as well as enter the comment submissions 
into ADAMS. The NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove identifying or contact information.
    If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons 
for submission to the NRC, you should inform those persons not to 
include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be 
publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should 
state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove such information before making the comment submissions available 
to the public or entering the comment into ADAMS.

[[Page 79043]]

II. Background

    The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 
(``Evidence Act'') became law on January 14, 2019 (Pub. L. 115-435), to 
enhance evidence-building activities, make data more accessible, and 
strengthen privacy protections.\1\ The Evidence Act requires each 
agency to name an Evaluation Officer. At the NRC the Director of the 
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research holds this position and must 
``establish and implement an agency evaluation policy'' to fulfill a 
primary function of this position.\2\ The agency evaluation policy 
``should guide the agency's activities throughout the evaluation 
lifecycle.'' \3\ Evaluation activities include ``developing and 
coordinating multi-year Learning Agendas, establishing Annual 
Evaluation Plans, planning and managing or conducting specific 
evaluations, summarizing evaluation findings for particular programs or 
policies, supporting other offices within an agency to interpret 
evaluation findings, and bringing evaluation-related evidence to bear 
in decision-making.'' \4\ In directing these activities, ``the Evidence 
Act creates a new paradigm by calling on agencies to significantly 
rethink how they currently plan and organize evidence building, data 
management, and data access functions to ensure an integrated and 
direct connection to data and evidence needs.'' \5\

    \1\ Public Law 115-435, 132 Stat 5529 (2019).
    \2\ 5 U.S.C. 313(d)(3).
    \3\ Office of Management and Budget, M-20-12, ``Phase 4 
Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking 
Act of 2018: Program Evaluation Standards and Practices,'' Appendix 
C (March 10, 2020) (M-20-12).
    \4\ Id. at Appendix A.
    \5\ Office of Management and Budget, M-19-23, ``Phase 1 
Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking 
Act of 2018: Learning Agendas, Personnel, and Planning Guidance,'' 2 
(July 10, 2019).

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided guidance to 
agencies on establishing an agency evaluation policy based on 
``approaches that Federal agencies have found useful.'' \6\ This 
guidance includes ``[e]nsuring that the agency evaluation policy 
incorporates the evaluation standards'' recommended by OMB.\7\ OMB 
developed these evaluation standards through an interagency council 
that ``reviewed an extensive list of source documents to identify 
widely accepted standards for evaluation.'' \8\ The interagency council 
identified the following evaluation standards: relevance and utility, 
rigor, independence and objectivity, transparency, and ethics.\9\

    \6\ M-20-12, Appendix C.
    \7\ Id.
    \8\ Id. at 2.
    \9\ Id. at 3-5.

    Historically, the NRC has relied on high-quality evidence for its 
environmental and safety evaluations of civilian applications to 
utilize nuclear technologies.\10\ Frequently, the agency has obtained 
such evidence from external entities or through its own capacity, 
largely centered in the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research.\11\ In 
undertaking these activities, the NRC has been guided by its own 
Principles of Good Regulation: Independence, efficiency, clarity, 
reliability, and openness.\12\

    \10\ Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NUREG-1350, 2019-2020 
Information Digest, at 4-5 (August, 2019).
    \11\ Id. at 10.
    \12\ Id. at 3.

    In recent years the agency has begun evidence-building activities 
to support licensing new or novel nuclear technologies, including 
advanced, non-light water reactor designs; accident tolerant nuclear 
fuel; and digital instrumentation and controls.\13\ Additionally, the 
NRC has increasingly sought to rely on evidence-based metrics to 
improve internal agency performance including budgeting and financial 
management.\14\ To develop the following evaluation policy statement, 
the NRC sought to enhance its existing evidence-building activities 
through the activities directed in the Evidence Act. The NRC envisions 
that this approach will strengthen the agency's oversight of existing 
uses of nuclear technology, enhance the agency's readiness to license 
and regulate new and novel nuclear technologies, and further the NRC's 
ongoing efforts to improve its internal processes.

    \13\ Id. at 4.
    \14\ Id. at 7.

III. Proposed Evaluation Policy Statement

    The purpose of this Evaluation Policy Statement is to present the 
standards that will govern the NRC's planning and conduct of program 
evaluations \15\ (evaluations). This policy statement is required by 
the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 and is a 
commitment to using evidence and scientific methods when conducting 
evaluations to make informed decisions. The NRC is a learning and 
evidence-based organization, with a culture of continuous improvement. 
The NRC's evaluations are used to make informed decisions, are based on 
objective, technical assessments of available information and 
documented with an explicitly stated rationale. Furthermore, the NRC 
commits to implementing evaluation standards of rigor; relevance and 
utility; transparency; collaboration; independence and objectivity; and 
ethics in the conduct of its evaluations. This policy statement 
presents the NRC's evaluation standards.

    \15\ The Evidence Act defines ``evaluation'' as ``an assessment 
using systematic data collection and analysis of one or more 
programs, policies, and organizations intended to assess their 
effectiveness and efficiency'' (5 U.S.C. 311(3)). Evaluation can 
look beyond the program, policy, or organizational level to include 
assessment of projects or interventions within a program.

    The Commission, as a collegial body, formulates policies, develops 
regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, 
issues orders to licensees, and adjudicates legal matters. The 
collegial decision-making process results in actions reflecting the 
collective judgment of a group rather than an individual, aided by 
professional and administrative staff and advisory committees, such as 
the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. Strict requirements 
govern the admission and consideration of ``evidence'' when the 
Commission acts in its adjudicatory capacity. This policy is intended 
to apply to the NRC's non-adjudicatory functions.\16\

    \16\ This policy does not apply to the admission and 
consideration of evidence when the Commission acts in its 
adjudicatory capacity. The NRC's rules of practice and procedure in 
10 CFR part 2 govern that process.

    The NRC's Principles of Good Regulation, which include 
independence, efficiency, clarity, reliability, and openness, have 
guided the agency's regulatory activities and decisions using evidence 
and scientific methods. The principles focus on meeting the agency's 
important safety and security mission while appropriately considering 
the interests of stakeholders, including licensees; State, local, and 
Tribal governments; nongovernmental organizations; and the public. The 
agency's openness principle explicitly recognizes that the public must 
be informed about and have an opportunity to participate in the 
regulatory process.
    Evidence building and evaluation are used to inform agency 
activities and actions, such as licensing, oversight, budgeting, 
program improvement, accountability, management, rulemaking, guidance 
development, and policy development. The emphasis on evidence is meant 
to support innovation, improvement, and learning. The NRC uses many 
types of evidence, including evaluations. Other evidence types include, 
but are not limited to, descriptive studies, performance

[[Page 79044]]

measurements, financial and cost data, and program administrative data. 
The NRC carries out evidence-building and evaluation activities to (1) 
identify, evaluate, and resolve safety issues; (2) ensure that an 
independent technical basis exists to review licensee submittals; (3) 
evaluate operating experience and results of risk assessments for 
safety implications; and (4) support the development and use of risk-
informed regulatory approaches.

Evaluation Standards

    The NRC staff will use the following evaluation standards when 
conducting evaluations.
    1. Rigor--The NRC is committed to using rigorous evaluation methods 
by qualified evaluators with relevant education, skills, and experience 
to ensure evaluations are appropriate and feasible within statutory, 
budgetary, and other constraints.
    Rigorous evaluations require inferences about cause and effect to 
be well founded (internal validity); clarity about the populations, 
settings, or circumstances to which results can be generalized 
(external validity); and the use of measures that accurately capture 
the intended information (measurement reliability and validity). The 
NRC's evaluations are conducted by qualified staff with relevant 
education, skills, and experience for the methods undertaken. The NRC's 
evaluations use appropriate designs and methods that adhere to widely 
accepted scientific principles to answer key questions while balancing 
goals, scale, timeline, feasibility, and available resources. 
Additionally, the NRC's Information Quality Program \17\ ensures that 
all information relied on by the NRC is subject to rigorous quality 

    \17\ Management Directive 3.17, ``Information Quality Program,'' 
ensures that peer review is conducted on all influential scientific 
information and highly influential scientific assessment that the 
agency intends to disseminate.

    2. Relevance and Utility--The NRC will ensure that evaluations are 
relevant and provide useful findings to inform agency activities and 
actions and stakeholders.
    The NRC performs evaluations to examine questions of importance and 
serve the information needs of stakeholders. The NRC's evaluations 
present findings that are clear, concise, actionable, and available 
within a timeline that is appropriate to the questions under 
consideration. The NRC's evaluation priorities consider legislative 
requirements; the NRC's strategic safety and security goals, 
objectives, and strategies; and the interests and views of 
    3. Transparency--The NRC is committed to conducting evaluations in 
an open and transparent manner, which keeps stakeholders informed of 
the agency's evaluation activities.
    NRC activities will be conducted openly and the public must be 
informed about and have an opportunity to participate in the NRC's 
regulatory process. As a regulator, the NRC will listen to, respect, 
and analyze different views from stakeholders. The NRC will also ensure 
open channels of communication are maintained between the NRC and 
stakeholders, including Congress, other government agencies, licensees, 
nongovernmental organizations, individual members of the public, and 
international and domestic nuclear communities. The NRC takes 
reasonable efforts to make all information, including information about 
the NRC's evaluations (including their purpose, objectives, design, 
findings, and evaluation methods), broadly available and accessible. 
The NRC releases public evaluation findings in a timely manner and 
archives the evaluation data for secondary use by stakeholders, as 
    4. Collaboration--The NRC is committed to working collaboratively 
when conducting evaluations and draws on the expertise of subject 
matter experts to ensure diversity in perspectives.
    The NRC fosters a collaborative work environment that encourages 
diverse views, alternative approaches, critical thinking, creative 
problem solving, unbiased evaluations, and honest feedback. The NRC 
emphasizes trust, respect, and open communication to promote a positive 
work environment that maximizes the potential of all individuals, which 
improves evidence building and evaluation activities. A collaborative 
environment leverages expertise from subject matter experts and enables 
peer reviews to ensure rigorous evaluations. The NRC also conducts 
research and collaborates with organizations that develop consensus 
standards to improve data and methods used in risk analysis. The NRC 
collaborates with national laboratories, other Federal agencies, 
universities, and international organizations.
    5. Independence and Objectivity--As an independent Federal agency, 
the NRC is committed to conducting evaluations that are independent and 
based on objective assessments of all relevant information.
    The NRC was established as an independent agency to regulate 
civilian uses of radioactive material. The NRC's evaluations will be 
independent and objective to maintain credibility. The implementation 
of evaluation activities, including the selection and function of the 
evaluators, should be appropriately insulated from factors that may 
affect their objectivity, impartiality, and professional judgment. 
Evaluations are inclusive and seek diverse participation from 
stakeholders in setting evaluation priorities, identifying evaluation 
questions, and assessing the implications of findings. The NRC strives 
for objectivity in the planning and conduct of evaluations.
    6. Ethics--The NRC is committed to conducting evaluations that 
adhere to Government-wide ethics standards to protect the public and 
maintain public trust.
    The NRC's evaluations comply with relevant legal requirements and 
are conducted in a manner that is free from conflicts of interest, 
undue influence, and the appearance of bias and that safeguards the 
dignity, rights, safety, and privacy of participants. The NRC complies 
with Governmentwide ethics standards contained in Federal statutes and 
regulations, which are intended to ensure that every citizen can have 
confidence in the integrity of the Federal Government.

IV. Specific Request for Comments

    The NRC is interested in obtaining feedback from stakeholders on 
the proposed Evaluation Policy Statement. The focus of this request is 
to gather information that will permit the NRC staff to develop the 
final Evaluation Policy Statement. The NRC is particularly interested 
in comments that address the extent to which the proposed Evaluation 
Policy Statement will facilitate the agency's review of new and novel 
technologies and the agency's efforts to improve internal performance.

    Dated: December 2, 2020.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Annette L. Vietti-Cook,
Secretary of the Commission.
[FR Doc. 2020-26864 Filed 12-7-20; 8:45 am]