Morgan Lewis

Nuclear Energy

For businesses aiming to thrive amidst nuclear power’s current worldwide renaissance, Morgan Lewis offers a full spectrum of legal services. Building upon several decades of nuclear industry experience in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the broader international market, the firm's Nuclear Energy Practice represents more than 60% of existing power plants in the United States and is handling a similar percentage of the applications for new plants in the U.S. More recently, we have applied this industry knowledge and experience to advise clients in international markets, and from our London office, we represent the first applicant for a new nuclear plant in the UK.

We assist our clients with new plants, power plant transactions, plant regulation, enrichment and fuel cycle issues, nuclear waste management, nuclear-related employment issues, and DOE contractor nuclear operations. Our clients are involved not only in generation of nuclear power, but also in all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining and enrichment to nuclear waste management and disposal.

New plants

Morgan Lewis’s Nuclear Energy Practice is helping a number of businesses position themselves to take full advantage of the growing demand for nuclear services. Our clients include companies applying for design certifications, early site permits, or combined licenses in the U.S and clients applying for Generic Design Approvals and Nuclear Site Licenses in the UK.

We helped obtain the first design certification ever issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the first early site permit (ESP) issued in the U.S. We subsequently have assisted other applicants in obtaining additional ESPs. Our attorneys are also assisting in reinitiating the licensing of formerly deferred plants.

In addition to working with corporate clients, we are also helping industry trade groups resolve generic issues related to the licensing of new nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power plant transactions

Due to economic deregulation in the electric industry, nuclear power facilities have been bought, sold, and in some cases, reorganized to achieve improved financial performance. Morgan Lewis has been representing companies in the acquisition of nuclear facilities—some of them cross-border transactions—and in the reorganization of nuclear assets through the formation of operating and generating companies.

These transactions call upon our informed command of the interplay between commercial and regulatory considerations in the transfer of licenses under U.S. or international regulatory regimes, as well as our demonstrated ability to resolve specialized tax problems, antitrust questions, insurance issues, and complex employment and labor relations issues. The firm is also active in assisting the industry in developing solutions to remove more systemic barriers to realizing the full value of nuclear assets.

Current nuclear plant regulation

Even as Morgan Lewis assists the industry in preparing for a new fleet of power plants, intrusive regulation of current plants continues. The Nuclear Energy Practice counsels nuclear utilities on every aspect of nuclear licensing, regulation, and related investigation and enforcement matters. We offer guidance to nuclear clients in their efforts to recover from regulatory-imposed shutdowns and negative ratings from regulators. Our attorneys frequently assist in the defense and conduct of investigations and in the development of comprehensive recovery plans for utilities that confront major regulatory performance issues.

Morgan Lewis also represents clients in the area of license renewal. The firm has played an active role in industry activities related to license renewal for more than 20 years, and our broad industry involvement informs license renewal strategies tailored to individual clients. To date, Morgan Lewis attorneys have represented more than half of all license renewal applicants in the United States in the regulatory, environmental permitting, agency adjudicatory, and federal litigation arenas.

Morgan Lewis also participates—on behalf of utility clients and industry trade associations—in rulemakings and interactions with regulatory authorities on a range of generic issues, including such matters as decommissioning criteria, maintenance requirements, enforcement policy, reactor oversight processes, financial qualifications, foreign ownership, and export controls. These interactions allow us to provide our clients with critical "real time" insight into evolving government policy and regulatory initiatives.

Enrichment and fuel cycle

Morgan Lewis represents a large and diverse group of domestic and international companies in virtually every segment of the nuclear fuel business, from uranium conversion through enrichment to the manufacture of finished fuel products. We also represent manufacturing companies, as well as healthcare and academic institutions, that use radioactive materials and are subject to regulation.

Morgan Lewis represents the leading uranium enrichment company in the United States and one of the recent prospective enrichment facility applicants. We also represent fabricators of nuclear fuel on a range of domestic and international regulatory issues affecting their manufacturing and sales operations, including the only planned mixed-oxide fuel fabricator. Similar services have been provided by Morgan Lewis to several major European suppliers of nuclear fuel, enrichment, and related services.

Nuclear waste management and decommissioning

Morgan Lewis's Nuclear Energy Practice has successfully handled some of the industry's most challenging radioactive waste management, decontamination, and decommissioning issues. We counsel clients regarding the financial assurance requirements for decommissioning liabilities and the management and tax treatment of decommissioning trust funds. We assist these clients in developing decontamination and decommissioning plans, and provide advice on governmental standards for radiological contamination and other licensing issues. In 2007, Morgan Lewis was selected as lead regulatory counsel to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in its application for a high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

We are also well placed to assist clients in the UK decommissioning market. Our lawyers were closely involved with the reorganization of the industry following the enactment of the Energy Act in 2004 and the establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and drafted the original Management and Operation Contracts for Sellafield and the Magnox Reactor fleet.

Nuclear-related employment issues

Morgan Lewis represents businesses in investigations involving claims of wrongdoing, and defends our corporate clients, as well as their employees, in multiple forums, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the NRC, the DOE, the U.S. Department of Justice, and state and federal courts. We investigate and defend such claims on behalf of many nuclear utilities and vendors across the nation. We have integrated the firm's litigation, white-collar defense, nuclear regulatory, and labor and employment law capabilities to provide effective defenses in "whistleblower" claims and related investigations.

We also counsel clients on re-engineering and downsizing programs to help ensure compliance with laws that guarantee employees the right to raise safety concerns and to assist clients in developing management systems and training for responding to employee concerns. To minimize client exposure to such claims, the firm performs Safety Conscious Work Environment assessments and provides extensive counseling on the development of effective Employee Concerns Programs.

Morgan Lewis provides management training designed to equip managers and supervisors with the basic tools and practical knowledge to detect and prevent retaliatory situations. Thousands of managers and executives within the nuclear industry, including those at numerous nuclear utilities, DOE prime contractors, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators, and the DOE itself, have received this training.

DOE contractor nuclear operations

In addition to the firm's representation of clients in the commercial nuclear power industry, Morgan Lewis assists the DOE's largest contractors in an array of complex legal, regulatory, contractual, and operational issues, among them: labor, employment, wage-hour and employee benefits counseling; government contracts; environmental regulation; Price-Anderson enforcement support; and nuclear indemnity and liability matters.

Additional legal services provided

In helping to resolve our clients’ complex and often interdisciplinary issues, over the years our Energy Practice has forged a strong interdisciplinary team of attorneys with specific energy industry knowledge and experience in the following areas of law:

  • Antitrust
  • Bankruptcy
  • Employee benefits and executive compensation
  • Environmental
  • Government investigations and anti-corruption
  • Immigration
  • Insurance
  • Intellectual property 
  • Labor and employment
  • Real estate
  • Taxation