KEY TRENDS IN LAW AND POLICY REGARDING
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS
Read the recent LawFlash prepared by our energy and tax lawyers discussing several key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) that bolster a broad spectrum of new and existing activities in the nuclear industry.

In this Law360 article, Ryan Lighty discusses the US Congress’s efforts to incentivize coal-to-nuclear transitions. With the recently passed Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, Congress authorized a new program to foster the deployment of next-generation nuclear facilities at depowered coal sites.

In a 2-1 vote, NRC Commissioners have approved a new approach for evaluating where reactors can be sited in the United States, opening the door to siting advanced reactors in more densely populated areas than has been allowed for large, light-water reactors.
Nuclear energy promises an available and adaptable source of zero-carbon energy. As such, it is poised to play a significant role in the global drive to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While some energy companies and governments have recently announced plans to phase out their use of nuclear power, others are looking at nuclear power as a tool to mitigate the rising cost of oil and gas and to reinforce their energy security.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued SRM-SECY-21-0107, in which it approved the NRC Staff’s recommendation to delegate authority to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) Panel—the independent trial-level adjudicatory body of the NRC—to conduct “mandatory” hearings for certain types of construction permit applications. However, the Commission also noted its intent to conduct such hearings itself in certain first-of-a-kind proceedings.
The NRC is taking an important step toward an inclusive licensing regime for a new generation of reactors. On January 3, the NRC staff submitted for commission approval a recommended final rule on “Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies.”
The NRC released a draft white paper discussing options to streamline its regulatory licensing process for microreactors. Specifically, the NRC Staff is “considering strategies to streamline the license review process by maximizing standardization and finality through the use of design certification, standard design approval, and topical report approvals” under 10 CFR Part 52, and is focusing on the following areas.
An NRC working group released a report on July 23 after conducting a “fundamental” review of 10 CFR Part 110 (Part 110) and the NRC’s readiness to license exports of advanced reactors and their associated nuclear material. The NRC concluded that it “is generally ready to license the export of advanced reactors and their associated materials and components,” but Part 110 could “benefit” from some clarifications because it generally is focused on light-water reactor (LWR) technology. The NRC’s proactive review is welcome news, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to becoming ready to license the next generation of nuclear reactor designs.
As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools become more widely adopted in various products and industries, the NRC has begun studying what roles these technologies can play in commercial nuclear power operations. On April 21, as part of its study, the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research requested public comments on the role of these technologies “in the various phases of nuclear power generation operational experience and plant management.”
The US Supreme Court rang eight bells on March 29, rejecting the petition by US Navy sailors to review last year’s Ninth Circuit decision upholding dismissal of their lawsuit in Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. The Supreme Court’s rejection ends the long-running litigation stemming from claims of injury by US Navy sailors deployed to Japan to provide humanitarian assistance after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan. The sailors claimed injury from radiation emitted from the damaged Fukushima-Daichi power plant and sued plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) and reactor designer General Electric Company (GE) for negligence, strict product liability, and wrongful death.