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The NRC Staff released specific guidance to all licensees on how to request exemptions from emergency preparedness (EP) biennial exercise requirements on May 14. The guidance supplements the NRC’s April 30 teleconference, during which it acknowledged that there may be instances in which licensees are unable to comply with certain EP requirements, including required training and drills, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). As a result, the Staff determined that regulatory relief might be appropriate to ensure health and safety among licensees’ employees, as well as public health and safety in the event of a radiological emergency.

The specific regulations at issue are located in 10 CFR 30.32(i)(3)(xii), 10 CFR 40.31(j)(3)(xii), Appendix E.IV.F to 10 CFR Part 50, 10 CFR 70.22(i)(3)(xii), and 10 CFR 72.32(a)(12)(i)-(ii).

The Staff expects licensees to try to reschedule the exercise date during calendar year (CY) 2020. If not possible, the licensee will need to submit an exemption request to conduct the exercise “at some reasonable time in the future.” To submit requests, the Staff refers licensees to the guidance located in Regulatory Issue Summary (RIS) 2006-03 (applicable to Part 50 licensees and useful for licensees under Parts 30, 40, 52, 70, and 72) and a guidance document between the NRC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) specific to COVID-19 exemptions from EP requirements.

Licensees should submit timely exemption requests based on the specifications in 10 CFR 30.6, Communications; 10 CFR 40.5, Communications; 10 CFR 50.4, Written communications; 10 CFR 52.3, Written Communications; 10 CFR 70.5, Communications; or 10 CFR 72.4, Communications, as appropriate. Additionally, licensees should send an email with the request to the facility’s NRC project manager. The Staff said it will consider requests on a case-by-case basis, and will provide a written determination to licensees. Exemptions will be in effect until the performance of the rescheduled exercise. Licensees must either come into compliance or apply for an extension from the NRC before the granted exemption period expires.

Requests for Relief

When submitting a request for an exemption from the EP biennial exercise requirements, licensees should submit the following information:

  • The licensee’s last biennial exercise date
  • The licensee’s current biennial exercise date
  • A statement that the licensee has made a reasonable effort to reschedule the exercise during CY 2020, but was unsuccessful
  • Per RIS 2006-03 and consistent with similar exemptions granted for issues like hurricanes that have impacted exercise scheduling, a statement that the licensee will reschedule the conduct of the biennial exercise within 35 months from the month in which the previously evaluated exercise was conducted in CY 2018
  • A statement that if an exemption is granted to allow the licensee to conduct the CY 2020 biennial exercise in CY 2021, that future biennial exercise will continue to be held in even years
  • A statement that the licensee conducted drills, exercises, and other training activities that exercised its emergency response strategies, in coordination with offsite authorities, since the previous biennial exercise
  • A statement that the rescheduled biennial exercise has been, or will be, coordinated with the applicable offsite response organizations (if required), the applicable NRC region, and the applicable FEMA region

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