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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.

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.

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.”

The NRC issued its final Temporary Staff Guidance (Final Guidance) on April 6 on its review procedures for coronavirus (COVID-19)-related Part 26 exemption requests. The NRC previously issued a draft of this guidance on April 1 and also discussed the draft during a teleconference with the industry on April 2, which we reported on.

The Final Guidance follows the NRC’s March 28 letter to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) notifying licensees of the process for requesting relief from the work-hour controls in Part 26 due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. We reported on this announcement in a previous blog and discussed the NRC’s required content for an exemption request and the procedures for licensees to request an exemption. Since that report, the NRC issued an addendum on April 8, clarifying that the March 28 letter does not apply to fuel facilities and correcting a reference to the behavioral observation regulation for operating reactors.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a letter including frequently asked questions (FAQs) on April 7 to all Agreement and non-Agreement States to address the NRC’s regulation of nuclear materials—and its policies and recent activities related thereto—in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The NRC posted a copy of the FAQs to its password-protected Materials Security Toolbox and intends to update that site “as additional information becomes available.”

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a letter on April 7 to all NRC licensees authorized to possess byproduct, source, and special nuclear material – excluding operating power reactor and research test reactor licensees – outlining how those licensees might seek relief from certain regulatory requirements as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Exemption Requests

The letter provides that the NRC may grant exemptions from its regulations and amendments to license conditions and technical specification when applicable criteria are met. Should a licensee anticipate that it will be unable to comply with a regulatory requirement, the licensee should contact the NRC as soon as possible thereafter to request an exemption or other relief. The NRC will review such requests on a case-by-case basis, may grant those requests for a specific period of time, and, where it does so, may require compensatory measures.