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The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced new key dates for companies considering applying for funding for its Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARD) program. Morgan Lewis previously reported on the ARD Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), including the different funding pathways available for applicants and key due dates.

DOE has since updated the ARD website to reflect changes to some of these dates, and add additional ones.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for its Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARD) program on May 14. The program seeks to accelerate advanced nuclear reactor technologies through private-sector cost sharing, with the goal of commercially demonstrating at least two advanced reactor designs by the mid-2020s, and reducing risk for technologies that would be ready to deploy in the 2030s.

Morgan Lewis previously reported on DOE’s initial Request for Information for the ARD program and the related Memorandum of Understanding between DOE and NRC. Letters of intent are due by June 11, and applications due by August 12.

The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) submitted its annual report on Transfers of Civil Nuclear Technology to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The report fulfills the agency’s obligation under Section 3136(e) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 to submit an annual report covering its review of applications to transfer US civil nuclear technology to foreign persons.

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 Department of Energy (DOE) and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently published a joint addendum to their memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the shared roles and responsibilities of each agency to develop the DOE Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARD) program. The goal of the ARD program is to “focus DOE and non-federal resources on actual construction of real demonstration reactors.” Morgan Lewis previously reported on the ARD program in February.

The US House of Representatives Energy Subcommittee within the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology unanimously approved H.R. 6097 (Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act) on March 12. Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Conor Lamb (D-PA) jointly introduced the bill.

The bill, which Morgan Lewis previously reported on in February, proposes more than 10 new programs to facilitate the creation and innovation of advanced nuclear reactor technology in the private sector, as well as to maintain existing reactors in the United States.

Representative Lamb commented that the bill would help save “today’s jobs and create more for tomorrow,” and Representative Newhouse emphasized that nuclear power will play a “critical role” as “the United States continues to lead in reducing carbon emissions.”

The bill has gained substantial support from various nuclear industry advocacy groups, including the US Nuclear Industry Council and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

We will continue to monitor the bill’s progression through the legislative process.

The US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is requesting feedback on the proposed Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act by Wednesday, February 19. The Committee hopes to introduce the bill by the end of the month.

The act proposes more than 10 new programs to facilitate the creation and innovation of advanced nuclear reactor technology in the private sector, as well as to maintain existing reactors in the United States. Several programs are highlighted below.

The Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program authorizes the secretary of energy to establish a program to support existing plants in the United States. The program would focus on research and development of technologies that will “modernize and improve” vital aspects of the reactors, including reliability, component aging, and safety.

On February 5, DOE released a Request for Information/Notice of Intent (RFI/NOI), which announced DOE’s intent to solicit applications for two Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARD) awards. Each award will be in the amount of $80 million for the first year, with additional funding dependent on individual project requirements and congressional appropriations. The projects are expected to be operational within five to seven years of the award.

Between two and five applicants who are not selected for one of the two ARD awards may be considered for a separate Risk Reduction award, if the project represents diversity of advanced reactor designs. The awards will address technical risks in each applicant’s reactor design. The total amount of the awards will be $30 million for the first year.

Our energy lawyers have prepared a LawFlash addressing the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act,” published today in the Federal Register by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The proposed rule has four major elements: (1) to modernize, simplify, and accelerate the NEPA process; (2) clarify terms, application, and scope of NEPA review; (3) enhance coordination with states, tribes, and localities; and (4) reduce unnecessary burdens and delays.

To date, the commercial nuclear power industry has expressed strong support for the types of rule changes proposed by the CEQ in its NPRM, as they are intended to streamline and expedite the federal agency NEPA review process. Those in the industry that depend on federal agency action when advancing projects and securing permits should actively participate in the proposed rulemaking and help the CEQ build a sufficient agency record to defend against any later litigation challenges to new regulations.

Read the full LawFlash.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting comments on whether there is a sufficient supply of molybdenum-99 (Mo‑99) to meet medical needs without the export of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the United States. Comments are due by December 27, 2019. The comments will support a certification that the secretary of Energy must submit in early 2020 pursuant to the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-239, 126 Stat. 2211 (the Act). The content of this certification will determine whether the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will have authority to issue HEU export licenses for Mo-99 production in foreign research and test reactors.

According to the notice in the November 27 Federal Register, “Historically, the United States has not had the capability to produce Mo-99 domestically and, until 2018, imported 100 percent of its supply from international producers, some of which was produced using targets fabricated with proliferation sensitive HEU.” Congress passed the Act as part of a decades-long effort to ensure domestic availability of Mo‑99, which is used in medical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. According to the notice, approximately 80% of all of these procedures depend on the use of technetium-99, a decay product of Mo-99. Importantly, Section 3174 of the Act amended the Atomic Energy Act to prohibit the NRC from issuing licenses to export HEU from the United States for purposes of medical isotope production, effective seven years from the date of enactment of the Act. The Act became law on January 2, 2013, and thus the ban on NRC export licenses is scheduled to go into effect in early 2020, unless it is extended through a certification from the Energy secretary.