The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff hosted a public meeting via teleconference on April 23 to discuss available regulatory relief pathways for materials licensees subject to 10 CFR Parts 30 and 34 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). The Staff’s presentation appears here. Much like they did during their April 22 meeting on regulatory relief for medical licensees, the Staff discussed their April 7 letter outlining the regulatory options for materials licensees to seek regulatory relief and their April 10 memorandum providing guidance to regional directors regarding the processing of exemption requests. In so doing, the Staff articulated the expected contents of an exemption request:
- The license number and/or docket number associated with the request
- The regulations, license conditions, and/or license commitments from which the licensee is requesting an exemption
- A description of why relief is necessary as a result of the COVID-19 PHE
- A description of which areas and activities are shut down or have limited access and which are fully operational
- A description of compensatory measures to ensure that licensed material will be used and stored safely during the period of the requested relief
- The number of days during which regulatory relief will be necessary
To date, the Staff has received requests for exemptions involving package receipt timeliness, annual reviews, and requirements associated with Radiation Safety Programs such as:
- Area surveys
- Source inventories
- Source leak tests
- Instrument calibration
- Dosimetry exchanges
- Routine door lock checks
- Environmental air sampling
- Research protocol renewals
- Vendor activities (e.g., source exchange)
The Staff noted that it has denied exemption requests regarding the calibration of survey instruments that are not in use, leak testing of sealed sources in storage, and certain dosimetry change-outs as licensees had not explained why those exemptions were necessary. The Staff also acknowledged that licensees may need relief from other requirements under different regulations, including 10 CFR Parts 20 and 37. Licensees should not view the absence of guidance for submitting exemption requests under other regulations as a deterrent. Indeed, the Staff anticipates releasing guidance on other such regulations in the future. In the meantime, licensees can request exemptions from those regulations following the same process described above.
Although the Staff expects licensees to submit requests in writing, the Staff noted that licensees may request emergency exemptions via email or phone. Directors of the regional Divisions of Nuclear Materials Safety can provide verbal authorization of the requested exemptions if immediate relief is needed and they deem the request appropriate. If a request is made orally, licensees must follow-up with a written request within 24 hours. In urgent, off-hours cases, licensees should contact the Headquarters Emergency Operations Center at (301) 816-5100.
Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force
For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. We also have launched a resource page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts.