A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on May 22 issued an order upholding a trial court’s dismissal of the long-running Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. lawsuit. The court’s decision is the latest chapter in the long-running suit brought by US Navy sailors, who claimed that radiation emitted from the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 injured them. The Ninth Circuit’s decision also provides a reminder of the importance of understanding international nuclear liability regimes and may be useful precedent for future claims brought in US courts involving radiation tort cases based on events taking place outside the United States.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) revised regulations regarding the medical use of byproduct material became effective on January 14, 2019—six months after being published in final form, and nearly a decade after the proposed rulemaking. See Medical Use of Byproduct Material—Medical Event Definitions, Training and Experience, and Clarifying Amendments, 83 Fed. Reg. 33,046 (July 16, 2018). The revised regulations amend 10 CFR Parts 30, 32, and 35. The NRC also issued guidance to provide additional detail regarding the substance of the revised regulations and to assist licensees with compliance. See Guidance for the Final Rule, Medical Use of Byproduct Material—Medical Events, Definitions, Training and Experience, and Clarifying Amendments, 83 Fed. Reg. 33,759 (July 16, 2018). Among other things, the amendments change the requirements associated with

The New York Times recently published an important article discussing the tightening supply and uncertain future of MO-99, a short-lived medical isotope widely used for medical diagnostics in the United States and worldwide. Currently, there are only six suppliers of MO-99 in the world, all of them government-owned nuclear research reactors located outside of the United States. As noted in the article, one US company—SHINE Medical Technologies—has plans to build a domestic supply chain in Wisconsin to ensure a reliable supply, shielded from potential interruptions that could readily impact a foreign-only supply chain. They have already received Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval in the form of a Construction Permit issued in 2016 to begin work on the facility. There was no material opposition to the NRC permit for SHINE, perhaps in recognition of the importance of nuclear medicine in our day-to-day health and well-being. A few other companies are also seeking to build MO-99 domestic production facilities. While nothing is ever easy in the nuclear world and we cannot predict who will get to the finish line first, it seems that the successful addition of a domestic supply of MO-99 is an important first step towards “health independence.” And much like the current focus on US energy independence, it seems equally worthy of national attention.

Read the article here.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently put the final nail in the coffin of a nearly 10-year proposed rulemaking effort that would have required licensees to remediate residual radioactivity resulting from licensed activities during facility operation, rather than at license termination as required by the current rules. The effort began when the commission approved the proposed decommissioning planning rule (DPR) in 2007. At that time, the commission was concerned that there could be “legacy” sites that could not complete complex remediation efforts due to inadequate financial or technical reasons, and that these sites would require the government to shoulder the burden to maintain and restrict access—and presumably complete site remediation. The proposed solution was to require remediation essentially as-you-go and thereby reduce the likelihood that any current operating facility would become a legacy site.

Since 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff has been working on revisions to 10 C.F.R. Part 61, Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of (Low-Level) Radioactive Waste. The original effort was intended to focus on potential impacts from anticipated disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium (DU), which is considered a “unique waste stream,” from uranium enrichment facilities. But over the course of the last seven years, the Staff’s concerns over other possible unique waste streams grew, and so did the scope of the proposed changes to Part 61.

On September 26, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an interesting order in the ongoing Navy sailor suit, Cooper et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc., seeking the US Department of State’s views on the pending appeal.

The case involves a tort action brought by US Navy personnel who allege that they suffered radiation-related injuries while providing humanitarian relief from Navy ships located off the shores of Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011. Defendant Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) owns and operates the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants, which were damaged as a result of the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Plaintiffs brought suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of California, contending that TEPCO was negligent in operating the plant.