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The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff hosted a public meeting via teleconference on April 29 to discuss available regulatory relief pathways from fire protection requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). The meeting focused on relief from three specific requirements of concern to the commercial nuclear reactor industry: (1) annual physicals for fire brigade members, (2) quarterly fire brigade drills, and (3) annual live firefighting training.

The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) submitted its annual report on Transfers of Civil Nuclear Technology to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The report fulfills the agency’s obligation under Section 3136(e) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 to submit an annual report covering its review of applications to transfer US civil nuclear technology to foreign persons.

The NRC Staff hosted a public meeting via teleconference on April 30 to discuss regulatory relief from emergency preparedness (EP) requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). The Staff noted that because of the PHE, there may be instances in which licensees are unable to comply with certain EP requirements found in 10 CFR § 50.47 and Appendix E to 10 CFR 50, including required training and drills, as well as public information campaigns. As a result, the Staff has 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 Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Executive Director for Operations recently issued SECY-20-0032, requesting the Commission’s approval of a seven-year rulemaking plan for a “Risk-Informed, Technology-Inclusive Regulatory Framework for Advanced Reactors.” Congress required the rulemaking as part of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), which became law earlier this year.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a letter on April 27 to the Nuclear Energy Institute and the National Organization of Test, Research, and Training Reactors, and others, clarifying and expanding the guidance on respiratory protection requirements that it previously provided to stakeholders during an April 15 teleconference (on which we reported). Specifically, the NRC discussed ways in which licensees can request regulatory relief from requirements associated with medical evaluations and “fit testing” during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE).

The NRC issued temporary Staff guidance intended to help Staff review and process requests for regulatory relief from fuel facilities on April 21. Although intended for NRC Staff, the guidance provides insights into the process licensees should follow when submitting requests for relief and the information they should anticipate including.

Importantly, the guidance states that licensees should notify the NRC as soon as they “anticipate that they will be unable to comply with a regulatory requirement or license condition.” The Staff will consider requests for relief on a case-by-case basis, and if the licensee meets the requirements for an exemption, the Staff will issue a written determination for a specific period.

A final rule issued by the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) on April 28 broadens license requirements in Part 744 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to include military end users in China. A license was previously only necessary to export items for military end use in China—not to military end users. The rule also broadens the definition of “military end use” and expands Electronic Export Information (EEI) filing requirements, among other things.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff hosted a public meeting via teleconference on April 22 to discuss available regulatory relief pathways for medical licensees during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE).

During its presentation, the Staff referenced an April 7 letter (on which we reported) outlining options for materials licensees to seek regulatory relief during the PHE. Among other things, the letter addressed exemptions to regulations and license conditions, as well as emergency regulatory relief.

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

In a recent LawFlash, our colleagues in the environmental practice discuss the recent Supreme Court ruling that the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires a permit when there is a direct discharge (or the functional equivalent of a direct discharge) from a point source into navigable waters.

The decision provides a framework for analyzing whether the CWA’s permitting requirement applies to indirect discharges from point sources into navigable waters, and is notable for its rejection of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance—issued while the case was pending before the Court—in which EPA opined that “releases of pollutants to groundwater are categorically excluded from the Act’s permitting requirements” and could provide fodder for future challenges to federal agency statutory interpretations.

The question of what constitutes the “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” is also likely to be the subject of significant future litigation and debate, just as the question of what constitutes a “navigable water” has been. The decision also will require EPA to revisit its interpretative statement and consider the issuance of administrative guidance on the application and implementation of the Court’s decision.

Read the full LawFlash >