NRC’s Regulation of Nuclear Material During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Morgan Lewis - Up & Atom

Morgan Lewis - Up & Atom

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.”

Among other things, the NRC letter provides the following information:

  • The NRC is rescheduling or virtually holding all training courses through May 2020.
  • The NRC has postponed all routine inspections—except mission essential inspections with approval of NRC senior leadership—through the end of April 2020.
  • The NRC sent a letter to materials licensees outlining opportunities for relief from certain regulatory requirements. Please see our prior analysis of this relief.
  • The NRC recommends that licensees send electronic copies of submissions to their project managers or notify those managers that hard copies are en route.
  • The NRC will postpone all prelicensing site visits unless the applicant’s need for a license is critical to the protection of public health and safety (e.g., medical facility, industrial applicant with a contract from a known entity or contract from a verifiable source) in which case “staff will evaluate on a case-by-case basis options to conduct the pre-licensing site visit commensurate with the risk posed by the proposed use of radioactive material.”
  • The NRC issued the American Society for Nondestructive Testing an exemption authorizing it to extend individual certifications expiring between March 31 and September 30, 2020, for up to two extensions, in increments of no more than 90 days.
  • The NRC is maximizing the use of technology—including video conferencing—to implement the Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program (IMPEP).
  • Agreement states may grant exemptions to regulatory requirements, provided that doing so continues to protect the public health and safety.

We will continue to monitor and report issues of interest to radioactive material licensees.

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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