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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hosted a public meeting on April 13 to discuss and solicit stakeholder feedback on the cumulative effects of regulation regarding final changes made to the fitness-for-duty (FFD) drug testing requirements in 10 CFR Part 26 (Part 26). The NRC published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on September 16, 2019, to align Part 26 with certain drug testing provisions in the 2008 Health and Human Services Guidelines.
The US Supreme Court rang eight bells on March 29, rejecting the petition by US Navy sailors to review last year’s Ninth Circuit decision upholding dismissal of their lawsuit in Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. The Supreme Court’s rejection ends the long-running litigation stemming from claims of injury by US Navy sailors deployed to Japan to provide humanitarian assistance after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan. The sailors claimed injury from radiation emitted from the damaged Fukushima-Daichi power plant and sued plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) and reactor designer General Electric Company (GE) for negligence, strict product liability, and wrongful death.
The NRC recently approved a revision to its Policy Statement, “Enhancing Participation in NRC Public Meetings.” If you have attended an NRC public meeting in the past few decades, you may be familiar with the NRC’s triage of different meeting types, designated as “Category 1,” “Category 2,” or “Category 3.” The latest revisions redefine the categories of public meetings and the level of public participation permitted at each.
The NRC recently held a meeting to discuss the path forward on its plans to address inconsistencies between the two primary licensing paths for new reactors. The agency estimates that its streamlining effort will result in net averted costs to industry and the NRC of tens of millions of dollars. Comments on the first phase of this undertaking are due in April, and interested stakeholders should consider taking advantage of this opportunity to influence agency policy.
The NRC’s Office of Investigations (OI) recently published its Annual Report FY 2020, summarizing its activities during the last fiscal year. The annual report shows that OI opened 13% more cases in 2020 than in 2019, reversing the downward trend seen over the last several years. The increase in the number of opened investigations is notable given the quarantine and travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many licensees reduced their onsite staffing to minimize the risk of infection.
The US Department of Labor (DOL) announced on February 19 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin investigating whistleblower complaints of retaliation under the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Morgan Lewis previously reported on the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act in its December 16 and December 28 LawFlashes, and on the Anti-Money Laundering Act in its January webinar discussing key whistleblower developments in the past year.
For a more detailed analysis of President Joe Biden’s executive orders addressing the “existential threat” of climate change, read the energy practice LawFlash.

A LawFlash prepared by lawyers in our environmental practice discusses the implications of the DC Circuit’s recent decision vacating the Environmental Protection Agency’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule on the Clean Power Plan. 

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The NRC held a public meeting on January 26 to discuss potential options for licensing fusion energy systems. This meeting is part of the NRC’s work to develop regulations to license and regulate advanced nuclear reactors as directed by the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).
President Joe Biden has elevated Democratic Commissioner Christopher T. Hanson to serve as Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Mr. Hanson succeeds former Republican Chairman Christine Svinicki—the longest-serving Commissioner in the history of the agency—who stepped-down on January 20, 2021. Although timing is uncertain, President Biden also is expected to nominate a fifth Commissioner to fill the former Chair’s vacant seat. If that pick shares Chairman Hanson’s views, the agency’s longstanding threshold for intervenor challenges to license applications could be overturned.