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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 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.

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

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff issued SECY-20-0034 on April 22, informing the NRC Commissioners of the Staff’s plan to exercise enforcement discretion for licensee noncompliance with regulatory requirements resulting from illnesses or other factors caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). The Staff’s approach applies to all classes of licensees and provides long-awaited guidance on the subject of enforcement discretion.

The US Department of Labor’s chief administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a supplemental administrative order on April 10, extending the suspension of in-person hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). The supplemental order, issued in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, also extends several procedural deadlines but modifies the hold on issuing decisions. As we reported, the chief ALJ suspended all OALJ hearings and certain procedural deadlines in his March 19 order. The chief ALJ’s March 19 order and its deadlines remain in effect until May 15. The supplemental order extends the deadlines beyond May 15, as follows.

Read our Health Law Scan blog addressing a process identified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Materials Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) to review medical licensees’ requests for temporary exemptions from certain NRC regulations, as well as guidance on regulations NMSS has evaluated and deemed appropriate for temporary exemptions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) now has a web portal for nuclear reactor licensees to submit coronavirus (COVID-19) related regulatory exemption requests. The web portal currently allows online submissions for Part 26 Work Hour exemption requests. Online submissions for Part 55 Operator Licenses, Part 50.55a Owner’s Activity Reports, and Part 73 Physical Protection exemptions are coming soon.

The web portal also contains a summary of each regulatory exemption and links to NRC letters and applicable guidance. Readers wanting a more in-depth analysis of each exemption can read our earlier posts on the Part 26 exemption guidance, guidance on Part 50.55a reporting, guidance on operator licensing, and the Enforcement Guidance Memorandum on Part 73, Appendix B.

We will continue to follow these issues and provide updates when the online applications become available.

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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.