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  • Moderator 4:38 pm on June 18, 2013 Permalink  

    A Conversation with the Outgoing Executive Director for Operations – This Chat is Closed 

    bill-borchardtMy name is Bill Borchardt and I am the Executive Director for Operations at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but  I am often referred to as the EDO.  It is my job to carry out the operational and administrative functions necessary for the day-to-day operations at the agency.  Some of my responsibilities are supervising and coordinating policy development, agency operational activities and implementation of Commission policy directives.  Since joining the NRC in 1983, I have held many different positions including resident inspector at the Hope Creek Plant in New Jersey and inspector at other nuclear plants in New England, and I have had a number of leadership positions at NRC headquarters.  Prior to joining the NRC,  I was an officer in the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power Program.

    I look forward to hearing from you and taking your questions.


    • Moderator 2:04 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Good Afternoon!

      We will be answering questions as quickly as possible and posting some “fun facts” throughout. We already have several questions from e-mail and our blog post this morning, so we’ll deal with those first.

      Please remember to refresh regularly to see new content (with some browsers). And if you’re replying to a comment or response, please use the reply link on the post rather than the comment box at the bottom of the Chat. That way your response is “linked” to the comment you’re responding to.

      Unrelated questions or comments can be posted here:


    • Moderator 2:06 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      My question is: What do you consider your best achievement(s) during your time at the NRC?

      Richard S. Scheirer
      Contract Administrative Assistant

      In every position, there have been a great number of opportunities – from being a resident inspector to starting up the Office of New Reactors. As EDO, I’m most proud of my accomplishments related to creating a positive work environment for employees so they can do their jobs better. I’ve emphasized an open and collaborative work environment, which focuses on NRC values and fosters good working relationships among the staff.


    • Dan Cronin 2:06 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you Mr. Borchardt for your many years of service.

      I’d like to hear your perspective on the NRC role as it applies to allowing for widespread research and development within the non-power reactor community. Thank you.

      • Moderator 2:11 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I’m not sure what you’re asking. If your question is about new designs for research reactors, that’s But more appropriate for the Department of Energy. We do acknowledge the valuable role that existing research and test reactors play in the educational system and in the many advanced research programs in this country. We have a highly knowledgeable staff in HQ who provide oversight of those reactors.


      • Dan Cronin 2:15 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I’m referring in a general sense to the AEA Section 104(c) which is unique to the NPR community and which provides a constraint on the NRC’s oversight of NPRs.

      • Moderator 2:21 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I’m not intimately involved in that and would need to study the matter more.


      • Dan Cronin 2:30 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        AEA 104(c) imposes a unique constraint requiring the “minimum amount of regulation” for non-power reactors and states that the NRC will “permit the conduct of widespread research and development”.

        In his farewell speech, Chair Jazcko stated (paraphrasing) that the NRC would ensure the health and safety of the public regardless of the impact on the licensee. No mention was made of the non-power reactor community in this speech. Chair Jazcko’s comment seems to be in conflict with 104(c). To my knowledge, Chair MacFarland hasn’t implemented any course changes with regards to NPR oversight that would contradict the Chair Jazcko statement.

        Given this background information, how does the NRC ensure compliance with 104(c)?

      • Moderator 2:36 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        We regulate all facilities for public health and safety. The requirements that we impose are based upon the risk the facility presents to the public. Research and test reactors have a much lower source term than power reactors and therefore have a commensurate set of regulatory requirements. Beyond that, I have no further comment.


      • Dan Cronin 2:49 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        Again, thank you for your time today and for your service. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

      • Moderator 2:50 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        Thank you!


    • Moderator 2:09 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Questions to Bill Borchardt:
      (1) If I happen to land on your position, what documents do I consult to give me the pace or fast-tracked to meet the challenges that go with the position?
      (2) If you were to start all over again in the position, what would you like to be done different?
      (3) How would you restructure the operations of the US NRC if you had to?

      There is no document or play book! The 25 years of experience I had in the NRC in a variety of different positions was invaluable for me to do the EDO job. One of the most important factors was that time in the agency gave me a deep-founded sense of what the Commission is and a trust in the people here. I really understood the work of the agency here. The resident inspector job really did give me a good boots on the ground view.

      I don’t think I’d have done anything differently when taking on the EDO job.

      As far as restructuring the NRC, in almost 40 years we’ve adapted numerous times to the realities of the changing environment, most recently in 2005 with the creation of two new offices. I expect we’ll continue to do that in the future.


    • Moderator 2:10 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun Fact: The Executive Director for Operations is basically the NRC’s chief operating officer. The EDO manages the day-to-day operations of the agency, including responsibility for implementing Commission policy directives.

    • Rob Bunch 2:12 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      What was the most rewarding or interesting outreach you have been a part of in relation to our international missions?

      • Moderator 2:15 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I really enjoyed my role as Vice President of the Convention on Nuclear Safety review meeting in Vienna that focused on Fukushima lessons learned (in 2011). It reaffirmed the NRC’s and US leadership role throughout the world, and was a valuable opportunity to share lessons learned and regulatory and plant improvements that are underway. I also really enjoyed being team leader on several integrated regualtory review service missions that assessed other regulatory agencies around the world — in U.K. and South Korea.


    • Moderator 2:12 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: What advice would you have for next EDO regarding appearance of interactions with NEI.
      Some folks think NEI has too much influence. Is it out of line for NRC to occasionally stick its thumb in NEI’s eye?

      We value the input of all stakeholders. NEI is but one of a wide range that we need to interact with. Being an independent regulator doesn’t mean that we should be isolated. We’re always conscious of keeping an arm’s length between us and the regulated community.


    • Jim Coyle 2:15 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Given that SMRs may be more of the future in power generation than new large-scale reactors, do you have any sense of what concerns could arise from people who would be in close proximity to the SMRs and who may be resistant to such reactors?

      • Moderator 2:18 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        Any Small Modular Reactor that gets licensed would get a thorough review that includes public input, inspections, etc. At that time, we’ll hear what the concerns might be.


    • Moderator 2:15 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: Could the EDO address the latest on the consolidation of NRC offices to the White Flint North area? Will RES staff move back to White Flint North area or stay in Church Street building?

      As some of you may know, we have a new third building in our headquarters complex in Rockville, MD, that we’ve just started moving folks into. It’s still a dynamic situation and the details of which offices will go where are still being worked on.


    • Moderator 2:16 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun Fact: The first EDO, Lee Gossick, was a Major General in the Air Force and a fighter pilot in WWII.

    • annon 2:17 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Some people rant against regulators, saying that they hold back the economy. Others complain that NRC, FDA, etc. are far too cozy with the regulated industries and strive too hard to accommodate them. How does NRC walk that tightrope?

      • Moderator 2:23 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        Thank you for that question. It comes up a lot. We have to remind ourselves what our mission is — we protect the public, their health and safety, and the environment. We aspire to that in the most fact-based, even-handed way possible. Over my 30 years as a regulator, I’m every day reminded that this is not a popularity contest.


    • Moderator 2:19 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: Could you explain what you mean in your enforcement policy of…basically we ignore little document falsifications and we only enforce big falsifications. What is the NRC definition of an enforceable document falsification and a venial documentation falsification that is ignored?


      In determining the appropriate enforcement response to violations involving submissions of materially inaccurate information (or omissions of material information), the NRC considers a variety of factors, including the potential (or actual) safety significance, whether the violation was the product of willful action, and the level or responsibility of those involved. So the appropriate enforcement response is dependent upon the circumstances involved with a particular violation. Not all violations involving falsification will be handled in the same way. While the agency does not “ignore” falsification issues, some violations of the inaccurate and incomplete rule may be considered minor. Violations of a minor significance are not normally documented; however, they are expected to be corrected.


    • Thomas Wellock 2:21 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      In the last several decades, what has been the NRC’s greatest achievement? Greatest mistake?

      • Moderator 2:26 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        Greatest achievement? Almost 40 years of the safe use of nuclear materials in this country (not just reactors, but materials as well.)
        Greatest mistake? The Davis-Besse reactor head issue. It was a short-coming of omission on the part on the NRC. We missed early signs of corrosion that should have been seen and mitigated promptly.


      • Mike Derivan 2:57 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I find it interesting that you put the DB head issue ahead of the DB stuck open PORV pre-TMI event. DB head issue was caught before anything happened. Can you elaborate on your choice?

      • Moderator 2:59 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        It came to my mind first because the Davis-Bess head issue occurred while I was at the NRC.


    • Moderator 2:25 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: Hi, We have been following the story about the dropped lift at ANO a few months back that resulted in a worker fatality. We are hoping to gain insights into our own nuclear grade critical lifts from a lessons learned perspective.

      Does NRC have the lead on the accident investigation, or OSHA? From what we have seen this seems to have been a tragic industrial accident, so we are assuming OSHA has the lead, presumably with NRC functioning in a monitor and assist role to OSHA. Is that a correct assumption? Do you have any idea when the accident investigation report might be completed and released?

      Thank you,

      W. Don Seaborg, PE, PMP, STSM
      National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Field Office/Assistant Manager for Site Operations
      Senior Technical Advisor

      The NRC is not involved in the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident; that is solely OSHA’s responsibility. So we don’t know when it will be completed. As part of our Augmented Inspection, though, we looked at the licensee’s response to the event. Our report was made public about a month ago.


    • Bret Leslie 2:27 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Regarding being a best place to work in the Federal Government … what advice (e.g., top three ideas or topics) can you provide to leaders in Federal Agencies that will help them achieve the success NRC had, and are those topics any different than the issues NRC needs to address to get back on top

      • Moderator 2:32 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I think the three most important things are: being clear about the mission of the agency, defining the organizational values and expected behaviors, and a focus on people. We really emphasize our people — we communicate with them, keep them well informed and engaged and make sure they have the information to do their jobs, and that they feel valued.

        We use feedback from our employees to make this the best place to work. The surveys this is based on gives us information that we reflect on and act on, as appropriate. Continuous improvement is part of what we do all the time here.


    • Moderator 2:28 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun Fact: The average term for an EDO is 5 to 6 years; the longest was Jim Taylor with 7 years, the shortest Joe Callen with less than two years.

    • Moderator 2:31 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: should the fedral gov. provide funds for nucular waste why or why not

      I’m not sure what you’re asking. But by way of background –the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (as amended) requires nuclear utilities to pay a fee into the Nuclear Waste Fund based on the nuclear power they generate and sell. The amount of the fee was set by Congress at one mil (one-tenth of one cent) per kilowatt-hour. The utilities collect this fee from their customers. Congress established this fund to pay the cost of disposing of the spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors. Congress also decides how much to spend each year from this fund. Any change to that system would require additional action in Congress.


    • Moderator 2:35 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun Fact: There have been eights EDOs in the NRC’s history — including three named Bill.

      • harold 2:57 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        I’ve worked for all of them

    • Moderator 2:37 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: i have a question, would it be a good or bad thing if the government quit funding for nuclear energy??? why? I have to write an essay on government funding nuclear energy.

      The NRC is an independent, regulatory body. We don’t promote nuclear energy or make decisions related to energy policy for the country (that is done by the Department of Energy and the White House). What we do is this: if the country wants nuclear power, we’ll make sure it’s done safely and securely. So we don’t have an opinion one way or another about nuclear power in the U.S.

      Good luck on your essay!


    • Moderator 2:40 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun Fact: One EDO, Victor Stello used to dress up like Santa Claus and deliver candy canes to kids in his neighborhood.

    • Mike Derivan 2:40 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      It seems to me that most of the really tough policy decisions the Commission has to make are based on judgements rather than hard science. The NRC staff provides input to the Commission decision process. What is your estimate of the amount of agreement between the staff input and the Commission final policy? e.g. most, half, less than half agreement.

      • Moderator 2:45 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

        That’s in interesting question. My sense is there is a high degree of agreement on the vast majority of issues that come before the agency. What might be misleading at times is that we tend to focus on whatever differences do exist. That might give the impression there is a lot of disagreement. But we don’t all have to agree on every detail. Even when there’s disagreement, we agree on the most fundamental, important things.


    • Moderator 2:41 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Question: Since you are the outgoing EDO perhaps are you “freer” than most would be to answer the following questions and/or give us your personal opinion/insights on the following items:

      It is my understanding that the Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation by the NRC was perhaps only a month or two from being finalized when the project was halted… (correct this assumption if it was wrong)…

      1) Do you believe this review should still be completed (even if Yucca Mt is not selected as the site or in the running for future consideration)?
      2) Do we know an estimate of how much more time and money it would cost at this point to complete this review… if it were restarted?
      3) Would the NRC have the ability to shift its budget money to complete this review… or would it be have to be refunded by Congress?
      4) Would any decision in this area require a Commission vote to start it back up again at this point? Would you care to speculate on what the current Commission vote would be X- X (you don’t have to say how each would vote)?
      5) Have the courts ruled yet whether we have violated the law and our responsibility in this area yet?… How will this court decision play into our ability to finish this review?… especially if congress refuses to appropriate the money to complete the review. What happens then?
      6) As an “independent federal agency” do you feel we have became too politicized in the recent past…and is there anything that the agency itself can do to reduce this politicization going forward… or is that just the new norm and it should be expected given the current nature of politics in our country… and having political appointees for the Commission?

      By the way – thanks in advance for answering the question above that you can…it’s been good working with you (when you were in NRR several years ago) and please know that I …and the all the agency personnel wish you the best in your retirement and your future endeavors. Also know that you did a great job dealing with Fukushima in front of Congress / public meetings, etc. — thanks for all you have done to serve the NRC.
      You will be missed.


      First, thank you for your kind words. Secondly, you’ve got a lot of questions there, most of which are too complicated in this setting. But overall, this is my view about the Yucca Mountain situation: We’ve answered many of your questions in previous Congressional testimony and correspondence. I agree with the answers we’ve provided in the past. I’m looking forward to a Court decision that resolves this one way or another.

      As for perceptions of politicization: I’m confident the NRC staff has and will continue to make our technical decisions based on technical facts and science. That’s fundamentally our job. What the policy makers do with that input is up to them.  


    • Moderator 2:45 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Please remember to refresh regularly. And if you’re replying to a comment or response, please use the reply link on the post rather than the comment box at the bottom of the Chat. That way your response is “linked” to the comment you’re responding to.

    • Moderator 2:48 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun fact: Former EDO Bill Travers became the head of the first nuclear regulatory agency in the United Arab Emirates after retiring from the NRC.

    • Moderator 2:52 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      The Chat ends at 3 p.m. I really appreciate your interest and have tried to get to most of your questions. Thanks for joining us today!


    • Moderator 2:55 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Our next chat is scheduled for July 23, when we’ll be discussing the Waste Confidence Rule.

    • Moderator 2:56 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      Fun Fact: Before he became EDO, Bill Borchardt was the first Director of the Office of New Reactors, when that office was created in August 2006.

    • Moderator 2:59 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink

      My original plan, after coming off a submarine, was to spend two years at the NRC and use that as an opportunity to see what other jobs were out there. That plan didn’t work out. I really enjoyed my jobs at the NRC and enjoyed the people I worked with, and I just stayed around. There’s no way to overstate the value of being able to work in an agency of people who are truly committed to the important work they do. The NRC has been ahead of its time as far as being a model place to work and establishing healthy working relationships. It’s been a great 30 years. Thanks for joining this Chat.


  • NRC 12:15 pm on June 7, 2013 Permalink  

    Tell us Your Thoughts on NRC Chat! 

    Click here to leave a comment.NRC_Chat Icon_741x671

    We launched this new platform– Let’s Chat – in April. We wanted to feature real-time discussions on  specific issues with NRC experts responding to your questions.

    So far, we’ve held six Chats – on the history of nuclear power in the U.S., on the Japan Lessons Learned Directorate and its activities, the role of the resident inspector, severe weather preparedness, small modular reactors, and a conversation with our Executive Director for Operations. We appreciate everyone who has stopped by and sent us  questions. (By the way, they are archived on this site.)

    Our next session is July 23 from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern on Waste Confidence. 

    Now we’d like some feedback from you. What did you think? Are the times and days of the week convenient?

    We also like to hear your topic suggestions. We do have some limitations on topics for the Chat. It’s not the place for regulatory issues currently before the Commission or likely to come to the Commission, for example, or actively being adjudicated. But if you suggest a topic and we can make it work, we’ll put it on the schedule.

    Thanks for your input!

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