Guest Post: Catching Up with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Eureka! This painting by Gary Sheehan depicts the moment in 1942 when scientists observed the world's first nuclear reactor as it became self-sustaining.
Eureka! This painting by Gary Sheehan depicts the moment in 1942 when scientists observed the world’s first nuclear reactor as it became self-sustaining. (National Archives Identifier 542144)

We welcome guest bloggers! The following post is from Government Information Specialist Mark H. Graff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

At the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s FOIA, Privacy, and Information Collections branch, we’ve been looking for ways to streamline our internal processes and increase the use of technology to better respond to FOIA requests. We purchased several processing tools to help process records faster, and to track the work that comes through the branch. We recently started weekly team meetings at which we go over significant developments or problems arising in our cases and review agency FOIA procedures. We’ve already found a few ways to speed case processing and provide better customer service to our stakeholders and requesters.

One low-cost improvement we’ve made is a “FOIA Quick and Easy Guide for Record Holders” to help our NRC staff when they’re called on to search for records responsive to FOIA requests.  Because NRC has offices across the country and many employees aren’t involved regularly in estimating fees or searching for records, we learned that employees weren’t sure where to start when they’re assigned a request.  In response, our small postcard-sized reference guide offers step-by-step instructions for conducting searches and getting the records back to the FOIA shop for processing. We handed out this guide at recent agency-wide FOIA training and are making it available to individual program offices.

Another improvement the NRC has made is buying several licenses to allow Program and Regional Offices to use electronic redaction applications for viewing and suggesting records redactions. We no longer have to mail the records, have records holders mark suggested redactions by hand, and then mail the records back to us for processing. This saves both time and resources.  We’ve also started a project to digitize our archived FOIA request files to more efficiently keep up with our Records Management duties and to make the task of finding some of these old requests easier.

We’re proud of the improvements we’ve made, and we believe they will further enhance the agency’s transparency and help us to respond to our requesters more quickly.