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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.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) issued a letter on April 14 to provide guidance on reactor operator licensing requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Specifically, the letter provides “guidance for seeking exemptions from certain requalification program requirements,” including requalification program scheduling, licensed operator active status for research and test reactors, and delays in completion of medical examinations.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently released a draft report from the agency’s Working Group on Reactor Decommissioning Financial Assurance (DFA). Comments on the draft report are due by April 21, 2020.

The agency assembled the working group in 2019 to examine the implications of an increasing trend in the use of third-party business models for decommissioning nuclear power plants. The working group, composed of NRC personnel from the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, Nuclear Reactor Regulation, Regional Offices, and the Office of the General Counsel, undertook a comprehensive review of current DFA requirements to identify potential regulatory gaps or policy issues and recommend potential program enhancements.

Read our recent LawFlash discussing the US Department of the Treasury’s updated criteria outlining which businesses are eligible to apply for CARES Act loans allocated for businesses “critical to maintaining national security.”

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The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently posted guidelines on its continued operations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While NNSA personnel are mostly working remotely, the agency is otherwise operating business-as-usual. This means that certain essential personnel remain “on call” to return to their offices if needed, and that industry needs to continue to file reports for Part 810 activities as detailed in the regulations and as required in specific authorizations.

The guidelines also confirmed that the pandemic has not affected the agency’s ability to process Part 810 applications and requests for determination:

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a letter on April 9 to provide guidance on reporting requirements under 10 CFR 50.55a, “Codes and Standards,” in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The guidance is applicable to nuclear reactors licensed under 10 CFR Part 50.

10 CFR 50.55a contains “requirements for the use of certain codes and standards for the design, construction and inservice inspection of nuclear power plants.” The NRC may consider alternatives to those codes and standards under 10 CFR 50.55a(z), if the alternatives would maintain safety and quality or if complying with the codes and standards would “result in hardship or unusual difficulty without a compensating increase in the level of quality and safety.”