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In a recent Memorandum and Order (Order), an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (Board) unanimously granted summary disposition to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), dismissing three alleged violations and partially dismissing a fourth issued by the NRC. The violations arose from an investigation conducted by the NRC’s Office of Investigations (OI) into allegations of retaliation against a former TVA employee and former contractor. In its Order, the Board clarified the scope of Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA) (42 USC 5851) and the NRC’s implementing regulation in 10 CFR 50.7 (Section 50.7). The Order is favorable to employers covered by Sections 211 and 50.7. 

NRC Commissioners Christopher Hanson, David Wright, and Jeff Baran recently voted 2-1 (Commissioner Baran dissenting) to implement SECY-21-0029, “Rulemaking Plan on Revision of Inservice Testing and Inservice Inspection Program Update Frequencies Required in 10 CFR 50.55a.” SECY-21-0029 will initiate a rulemaking to extend the required Inservice Inspection (ISI) Program and Inservice Testing (IST) Program Code of Record update frequency from 120 months to 240 months.
The NRC held a public meeting on October 21 to discuss the status of its evaluation of environmental justice (EJ) in its programs, policies, and activities.
Our energy lawyers discussed the recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) report on Winter Storm Uri power outages, which outlined a series of recommendations, in the LawFlash FERC/NERC Report on Winter Storm URI Recommends Enhanced Cold Weather Preparation.
The NRC released a draft white paper discussing options to streamline its regulatory licensing process for microreactors. Specifically, the NRC Staff is “considering strategies to streamline the license review process by maximizing standardization and finality through the use of design certification, standard design approval, and topical report approvals” under 10 CFR Part 52, and is focusing on the following areas.
An NRC working group released a report on July 23 after conducting a “fundamental” review of 10 CFR Part 110 (Part 110) and the NRC’s readiness to license exports of advanced reactors and their associated nuclear material. The NRC concluded that it “is generally ready to license the export of advanced reactors and their associated materials and components,” but Part 110 could “benefit” from some clarifications because it generally is focused on light-water reactor (LWR) technology. The NRC’s proactive review is welcome news, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to becoming ready to license the next generation of nuclear reactor designs.
The NRC’s Commissioners approved an NRC Staff request on August 5 to withdraw two SECY memoranda related to improvements of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP). These SECY papers were initially issued in 2018 (SECY-18-113) and 2019 (SECY-19-067), and sought Commission approval for what the NRC Staff recommended would be potential improvements to the ROP as a whole. In withdrawing these two SECY papers, the Commission’s brief Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) provided little explanation as to why the Staff requested withdrawal of the two SECY papers.

The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report (OIG-21-A-13) discussing the results of its audit of the NRC’s pandemic oversight of nuclear power plants. The purpose of the audit was to “assess the NRC’s policies and procedures for conducting reactor inspections during the COVID-19 public health emergency and to identify best practices that could be applied during future pandemics or other public health emergencies.” In short, the OIG found that:

The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has submitted its annual report on Transfers of Civil Nuclear Technology to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The report fulfills the agency’s obligation under Section 3136(e) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 to submit an annual report covering its review of applications under 10 CFR Part 810 to transfer US civil nuclear technology to foreign persons. Morgan Lewis tracks these annual reports; see link to our full analysis of the prior report (for FY 2019).

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking public comment on the need to continue or modify the portion of the Price-Anderson Act that it administers, as it prepares a report to Congress. The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 2005 (codified at 42 USC 2210(p)) requires DOE to submit this report to Congress by the end of December of this year. The deadline to submit comments is August 25, 2021.