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Up & Atom

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently approved a 90-day deferral of all annual fee invoices that would have been issued to NRC licensees (including holders of reactor, fuel cycle facility, and materials licenses; certificates of compliance; sealed source and device registrations; and quality assurance program approvals) in the third quarter (April–June) of fiscal year (FY) 2020.

The deferral appears to have been prompted by a request from Congress. More specifically, Senators John Barrasso (Chairman, R‑Wyoming) and Thomas Carper (Ranking Member, D‑Delaware) of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Congressman Greg Walden (Ranking Member, R-Oregon) of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to the NRC on March 27, requesting that the agency consider deferring the collection of annual fees from NRC licensees due to challenges associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. In particular, the letter noted that “many power companies have suspended electricity disconnects for nonpayment,” and therefore may face financial challenges.

By way of background, 10 CFR Part 171 sets out the annual fees charged to NRC licensees. Some licensees are billed quarterly (October, January, April, and July of each fiscal year), based on the amount of the annual fee. Lesser amounts are billed on an annual basis on the anniversary date of the license. Payment is due on the invoice date and interest accrues from the date of the invoice (with a 30-day grace period). The March 27 congressional letter noted that the FY 2020 annual charge for operating reactors is projected to be approximately $4.7 million per unit.

NRC Chairman Christine Svinicki initially responded to the congressional request on April 3, noting that the NRC would evaluate the merits of relief requests from licensees on a case-by-case basis. A week later, in an apparent reversal of course, Chairman Svinicki sent a follow-up letter explaining that “[t]he Commission has approved a 90-day deferral of all annual-fee (10 C.F.R. Part 171) invoices that would have been issued in the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2020.” With the deferral, affected licensees whose invoices would have been issued between April and June 2020 will now be billed on July 22, 2020.

We will continue to monitor further developments in this area, and provide updates on any additional deferrals or changes in agency policy related to annual fees.