KEY TRENDS IN LAW AND POLICY REGARDING
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS
The NRC recently issued its Allegation Program Annual Trends Report, analyzing regional, national, and site-specific allegation trends for calendar year 2021. The report’s top-line numbers show that allegations increased approximately 40% from 2020. The broad-based increase spanned reactor and materials licensees, as well as their vendors.
The NRC staff recently provided the Commission with their annual Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) Self-Assessment for Calendar Year 2021 (SECY-22-0029). These annual self-assessments have been part of the ROP since the ROP was implemented in 2000 and are used by the Commission, the NRC staff, and stakeholders to monitor the performance of the ROP and identify areas for improvement.
The NRC’s Office of Investigations (OI) recently published its Office of Investigations Annual Report FY 2021 summarizing its activities during the past fiscal year. Overall, OI saw a drop in caseload, likely due—at least in part—to the COVID-19 pandemic and more workers working from home. Even so, the trend of increasing investigations of materials licensees continued, and this is likely to be a continuing area of focus for the NRC.

In a recent Memorandum and Order (Order), an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (Board) unanimously granted summary disposition to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), dismissing three alleged violations and partially dismissing a fourth issued by the NRC. The violations arose from an investigation conducted by the NRC’s Office of Investigations (OI) into allegations of retaliation against a former TVA employee and former contractor. In its Order, the Board clarified the scope of Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA) (42 USC 5851) and the NRC’s implementing regulation in 10 CFR 50.7 (Section 50.7). The Order is favorable to employers covered by Sections 211 and 50.7. 

The NRC Office of Enforcement (OE) recently published its Enforcement Program Annual Report for calendar year 2020. The report shows that the number of escalated enforcement actions increased 7% over 2019, but remained below the five-year average from 2016 to 2020. That said, 2018 was the nadir of this five-year period with 45 escalated enforcement actions. So while the number of escalated enforcement actions have not returned to levels seen in 2016 and 2017 (each with more than 80), instances of escalated enforcement remain above longer-term historic trends, notwithstanding maturation of the industry. Whether this trend continues is to be seen. In April 2021, the NRC named Mark Lombard as the new director of the Office of Enforcement.
The NRC recently issued its Allegation Program Annual Trends Report. The report analyzes regional, national, and site-specific allegation trends for calendar year 2020. The report’s top-line numbers show that the number of allegations fell approximately 10% from 2019. This reduction continues the decline in allegations seen since 2016; and the number of allegations has fallen by more than 50% over the past five years. But while the overall number of allegations continued to decline in 2020, the rate of decline slowed.
The NRC’s Office of Investigations (OI) recently published its Annual Report FY 2020, summarizing its activities during the last fiscal year. The annual report shows that OI opened 13% more cases in 2020 than in 2019, reversing the downward trend seen over the last several years. The increase in the number of opened investigations is notable given the quarantine and travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many licensees reduced their onsite staffing to minimize the risk of infection.
The NRC recently issued its Allegation Program Annual Trends Report analyzing regional, national, and site-specific allegation trends for calendar year 2019. The report shows a decrease of almost 50% in total allegations between 2015 and 2019.