KEY TRENDS IN LAW AND POLICY REGARDING
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS

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.

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.
A group of four US senators introduced a bill on March 16 to ban imports of uranium products from the Russian Federation. If enacted, such a ban could complicate the refueling of existing commercial reactors in the United States that rely on Russian uranium products. A ban also could extend the schedule in the United States for deploying some advanced reactors, because Russia is a key source of the high-assay, low enriched uranium (HALEU) they plan to use. In a related development, Russia is considering a ban on uranium exports to the United States in retaliation for the most recent energy sanctions on Russia.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, signed into law on December 27, includes the Energy Act of 2020 (Energy Act) and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Taxpayer Act), which contains tax provisions important to the energy sector.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) published proposed rule changes on May 21 addressing when parties must notify the Committee of proposed transactions.
The US Supreme Court issued its decision on June 17 in the case of Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren. The Court affirmed the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which held that the Atomic Energy Act does not preempt Virginia’s statutory prohibition on uranium mining.
As confirmed by an April 21, 2017 Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board report, the Department of Energy (DOE) initiated the first in a series of long-awaited shipments of liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU or target residue material) from Ontario, Canada’s Chalk River reactor to DOE’s Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. The target residue material stems from the legacy Atoms for Peace program, where the United States provided HEU for use, in part, as target material to be irradiated for the production of medical isotopes in foreign research reactors.
Russia recently suspended or terminated its nuclear agreements with the United States, further deteriorating diplomatic relations between the two countries.