KEY TRENDS IN LAW AND POLICY REGARDING
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS
Over the last few years, investors and financial markets have become more focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in making investment decisions. ESG considers how investments impact the environment, social factors, and governance issues. Investors are increasingly applying these nonfinancial factors in making investment decisions.
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.
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.
NRC Commissioners Christopher Hanson, David Wright, and Jeff Baran recently voted 2-1 (Commissioner Baran dissenting) to implement SECY-21-0029, “Rulemaking Plan on Revision of Inservice Testing and Inservice Inspection Program Update Frequencies Required in 10 CFR 50.55a.” SECY-21-0029 will initiate a rulemaking to extend the required Inservice Inspection (ISI) Program and Inservice Testing (IST) Program Code of Record update frequency from 120 months to 240 months.
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.

The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report (OIG-21-A-13) discussing the results of its audit of the NRC’s pandemic oversight of nuclear power plants. The purpose of the audit was to “assess the NRC’s policies and procedures for conducting reactor inspections during the COVID-19 public health emergency and to identify best practices that could be applied during future pandemics or other public health emergencies.” In short, the OIG found that:

As is clear from recent news reports, cybersecurity hacks and breaches have been trending upward for some time, and there has been a noticeable uptick over the last several months—including in the energy industry. As a result, President Joseph Biden has committed his administration, in large part through the American Jobs Plan and his executive order of May 12, to strengthen cybersecurity across the nation.
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.”