NRC Issues Guidance to Research and Test Reactor Licensees on Relief from MC&A Requirements

Morgan Lewis - Up & Atom
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Morgan Lewis - Up & Atom

The NRC issued a letter to the National Organization of Test, Research, and Training Reactors on April 30 regarding the NRC’s expedited review of requests for regulatory relief from certain material control and accounting (MC&A) requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). Specifically, the letter covers (1) extensions of time to submit material status reports required by 10 CFR 74.13(a); and (2) exemptions from the recordkeeping requirements of 10 CFR 74.19(c).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance in response to the COVID-19 PHE that, among other things, recommends that people avoid close contact with others and disinfect common surfaces. To ensure that certain of the requirements of 10 CFR Part 74 do not result in licensees taking actions contrary to the CDC’s guidance, the NRC anticipates that research and test reactor licensees may need regulatory relief from the above-referenced MC&A requirements. Details regarding the regulatory relief process appear below.

Material Status Reports – 10 CFR 74.13(a)

10 CFR 74.13(a) requires licensees to submit Material Balance Reports and Physical Inventory Listing Reports on predefined schedules. A licensee may seek an expedited review of a request to extend those schedules by identifying the date on which it will submit the required reports and explain why there is good cause to submit the reports on that later date.

Recordkeeping – 10 CFR 74.19(c)

10 CFR 74.19(c) requires licensees to conduct a physical inventory of all special nuclear material (SNM) at intervals not to exceed 12 months. Requests for exemption from that requirement should include the following information:

  • A request for exemption from the “not to exceed 12 months” requirement to conduct the physical inventory of all SNM in its possession
  • A statement of when the last physical inventory of all SNM was conducted
  • An indication of whether the licensee is willing to resolve within 30 calendar days of notification to the NRC any discrepancies in the results identified when conducting the physical inventory following the end of the COVID-19 PHE

The NRC will consider requests for relief from the above-referenced MC&A requirements on a case-by-case basis, and if the requirements for an exemption are met, it will provide a written decision. If sufficient time is not available for the NRC to provide a prior written decision for the exemption, then the NRC may provide a verbal decision that will be followed promptly by a written safeguards evaluation documenting the approval, or a letter documenting the denial of the request.

Exemptions generally will be in effect until 30 days after the PHE is ended or until December 31, 2020, whichever occurs first. Licensees must come back into compliance with the regulations or receive approval for an additional exemption period from the NRC before the end of each exemption period. Licensees requesting expedited review of a request for extension or exemption should contact the facility’s NRC project manager for assistance before submitting the request.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force

For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. We also have launched a resource page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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