Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #12: Finding Stuff in ADAMS

August 13, 2013
Dave Lochbaum
Former contributor

In November 1999, the NRC discontinued providing information to local public document rooms near nuclear plants around the country in favor of an online electronic library it calls the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS).

Finding records in ADAMS is wicked easy.

Finding records one actually wants in ADAMS is often just wicked.

One can search by key word or phrase or date or docket and literally get up to 1,000 hits (ADAMS will only return 1,000 hits even when 1,000,000 records match the search criterion. This makes it easier for you to find the record of interest among the 1,000 hits – unless, of course, that record is among the hits not returned.)

To make finding stuff even “easier,” records can be viewed in ADAMS by folders for the day they were added to the electronic library. Here’s part of the folder for June 17, 2013:

(Click to enlarge)

The very descriptive information provided for each record make it extremely easy to zero right in on stuff of particular interest. For example, if you’re interested in Modification No. 008 to Task Order No. NRC-HQ-12-T-09-00 under Contract No. NRC-HQ-11-C-33-0059, whomp there it is! Or if you’re interested in the June 7, 2013, version of Order No. NRC-HQ-13-P-33-0111 but not versions before or after that one, it’s right there in plain sight.

So, if you adept at going into stores and finding products by those bar codes instead of all those silly words merchants use for identification, ADAMS is right up your alley

How can the rest of we mortals find stuff in ADAMS?

If you have any one in your family or neighborhood really into Goth, ask them to try using an Ouija board to find the right accession number (that ML number thing). It’s not likely to be more effective, but it might be less frustrating than navigating ADAMS.

Or, after your children have found Waldo, dare them to find what you need in ADAMS. [Caution: The US Supreme Court frowns on cruel and unusual punishment, so make it abundantly clear the children “volunteered” for ADAMS duty.]










Maybe you know someone who is really, really good at find a word puzzles. This skill set might just be transferrable to ADAMS searching. Probably not, but it’s worth a try, especially when it’s their time and not yours being wasted. But remember, ADAMS does not limit itself to words. Acronyms, like PIP for Performance Improvement Plan, are unfair game, too.

But the absolute easiest way to find a record in ADAMS is to have a hard copy in your hand before you start searching. If so, read the hard copy and save yourself the wasted time and undue agony trying to find it in ADAMS even when equipped with its date, subject, addressee, etc.

Even for immortals, life is just too short to become an ADAMS aficionado.

There are times when the federal government should not award contracts to the lowest bidder. Like when it seeks an online document library that is not “electronic keep away.”


The UCS Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) is a series of post intended to help citizens understand nuclear technology and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for overseeing nuclear plant safety.