NRC Licensing and Hearings
Winston & Strawn nuclear energy practice attorneys have extensive experience, spanning more than 25 years, in NRC administrative hearings on complex license applications before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (“Licensing Board”), including applications for initial construction permits, operating licenses, early site permits, and combined operating licenses.
In 2005, we continued our representation of Louisiana Energy Services, L.P. (“LES”), a partnership consisting of Urenco, Westinghouse, Exelon, Duke Energy, and Entergy, in its pursuit to build and operate the nation’s first commercial uranium enrichment facility. As the NRC continues its review of the license application for the facility, W&S represents LES in the administrative hearings conducted before the Licensing Board. The case represents an important test case for the revamped NRC regulatory process, as the agency prepares for a new generation of power plant applications expected to begin in 2008. The firm has pursued a multi-pronged strategy to address bottlenecks in the licensing process that has included effective facilitation of the NRC Staff’s technical review, seeking changes to the hearing rules of procedure, actively obtaining Commission guidance to the Licensing Board, and ensuring strong congressional oversight. These aggressive efforts have significantly contributed to the widely anticipated success in meeting the goal of an unprecedented 24-month licensing process. This would be an impressive improvement over the time span for the last license application of this sort, which was eventually aborted seven years into the NRC review.
Recently, our energy partners successfully assisted Duke Energy to obtain an NRC license amendment allowing the initial use of test mixed oxide (“MOX”) fuel assemblies manufactured using surplus U.S. weapons grade plutonium at its Catawba Nuclear Station. This application was filed as part of the ongoing United States-Russian Federation plutonium disposition program, in which DOE plans to dispose of surplus plutonium by converting the material to MOX fuel and using that fuel in commercial nuclear reactors. This is an important national, nuclear non-proliferation initiative. The case was the subject of aggressive opposition in proceedings before the Licensing Board. The work of Winston’s attorneys was specifically recognized by DOE as an outstanding contribution to achieving the department’s goal.
Winston also successfully assisted Yankee Atomic Electric Company enter into a settlement agreement in a NRC licensing proceeding on the decommissioning of the Yankee Rowe nuclear power plant. Decommissioning the plant involves removal of all radioactive material from the plant site and termination of the license for the facility. The Licensing Board approved the settlement agreement and terminated the proceeding.