The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission) issued a final rule on January 12 to amend its regulations to adjust, for inflation, the maximum Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) it can assess under statutes enforced by the Commission. See Final Rule, Adjustment of Civil Penalties for Inflation for Fiscal Year 2018, 83 Fed. Reg. 1515. The NRC revised 10 CFR § 2.205 (Civil penalties) to adjust the maximum CMP for a violation of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), or any regulation or order issued under the AEA, from $285,057 to $290,875 per violation, per day (an increase of 2.041%). The Commission similarly amended provisions concerning program fraud in 10 CFR § 13.3 (Basis for civil penalties and assessments) to adjust the maximum CMP under the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act from $10,957 to $11,181 per false claim or statement. Under the rule, the NRC may apply these increased CMP amounts to any penalties assessed by the agency after the effective date of the rule (January 15, 2018), regardless of whether the associated violations occurred before or after this date.
Section 234 of the AEA (42 USC § 2282) limits civil penalties for violations of the AEA to $100,000 per day, per violation. However, the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 (FCPIAA), as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (2015 Improvements Act), requires the adjustment of CMPs for inflation in accordance with a statutory formula set forth in the legislation. The NRC previously had increased via rulemaking the maximum CMP amounts in 10 CFR §§ 2.205 and 13.3 on four occasions between 1996 and 2008. Notably, the 2015 Improvements Act requires that each agency continue to adjust CMP amounts on an annual basis, based on the percentage change between the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous October and the CPI for October in the year preceding that.