The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued an order, with the four-member Commission acting in its appellate capacity, holding that power reactor licensees applying for Subsequent License Renewal (SLR), and the NRC Staff reviewing such applications, may rely on the environmental impact analyses and conclusions in the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants. Environmental activists had challenged the applicability of these conclusions in the SLR context. The Commission’s ruling is a positive development for the nuclear power industry, particularly for current and future SLR applicants.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff issued SECY-20-0034 on April 22, informing the NRC Commissioners of the Staff’s plan to exercise enforcement discretion for licensee noncompliance with regulatory requirements resulting from illnesses or other factors caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). The Staff’s approach applies to all classes of licensees and provides long-awaited guidance on the subject of enforcement discretion.

The US Department of Labor’s chief administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a supplemental administrative order on April 10, extending the suspension of in-person hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). The supplemental order, issued in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, also extends several procedural deadlines but modifies the hold on issuing decisions. As we reported, the chief ALJ suspended all OALJ hearings and certain procedural deadlines in his March 19 order. The chief ALJ’s March 19 order and its deadlines remain in effect until May 15. The supplemental order extends the deadlines beyond May 15, as follows.

Read our Health Law Scan blog addressing a process identified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Materials Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) to review medical licensees’ requests for temporary exemptions from certain NRC regulations, as well as guidance on regulations NMSS has evaluated and deemed appropriate for temporary exemptions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) now has a web portal for nuclear reactor licensees to submit coronavirus (COVID-19) related regulatory exemption requests. The web portal currently allows online submissions for Part 26 Work Hour exemption requests. Online submissions for Part 55 Operator Licenses, Part 50.55a Owner’s Activity Reports, and Part 73 Physical Protection exemptions are coming soon.

The web portal also contains a summary of each regulatory exemption and links to NRC letters and applicable guidance. Readers wanting a more in-depth analysis of each exemption can read our earlier posts on the Part 26 exemption guidance, guidance on Part 50.55a reporting, guidance on operator licensing, and the Enforcement Guidance Memorandum on Part 73, Appendix B.

We will continue to follow these issues and provide updates when the online applications become available.

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.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations at 10 CFR 20.1703(c)(5)(iii) and 10 CFR 20.1703(c)(6) require licensees to maintain a respiratory protection program that requires (1) a periodic—often annual—determination by a physician that the user is medically fit to use respiratory protection, and (2) annual “fit testing” to ensure that the licensee’s respiratory protection seals tightly to the licensee’s face.

The NRC’s Office of Enforcement (OE) recently issued Enforcement Guidance Memorandum (EGM) 20-002, providing guidance to NRC inspection staff for exercising enforcement discretion for licensees impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This enforcement discretion applies to licensee implementation of the training and requalification requirements for security personnel covered by 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B. Specific enforcement guidance accompanies the EGM in an attachment.

Read the practical guidance provided by our labor and employment lawyers, highlighting key considerations employers should begin analyzing regarding how to reopen or expand operations. The focus is on what can be done now with the understanding that guidance on when and how workplaces can reopen or expand will rely in large part on jurisdiction-specific local orders and guidance. While some considerations will be specific to certain employers or industries, many COVID-19 issues affect all businesses. Morgan Lewis has prepared more in-depth guidance on many of these topics that are freely available to employers on our Coronavirus COVID-19 Resource Page.  The resource page addresses practice- and industry-specific issues, including many energy and nuclear specific issues.

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The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released a statement on April 8 reminding employers that they cannot retaliate against workers who report unsafe or unhealthy working conditions during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The statement reminds employers that acts of retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion, or reductions in pay or hours.

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.