Balch & Bingham has been deeply involved for many years in the development of nuclear power in the United States. The firm's clients range from large owner/operators of nuclear power plants to suppliers of products and services to the nuclear industry and individuals employed in the industry. The firm takes a special interest in understanding not only the legal, regulatory and political issues that affect the industry, but also the unique nature of the business of producing nuclear energy.
The firm regularly represents its clients in the development of new nuclear facilities, including licensing and equipment procurement and as well as in a variety of traditional licensing, enforcement and rulemaking proceedings before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In addition, we frequently appear before other federal and state agencies and courts in proceedings critical to the nuclear industry. Our lawyers often serve as legislative counsel, helping clients to effectively participate in the important process by which laws affecting nuclear power are made and changed. Last, but certainly not least, we provide counsel on a daily basis regarding the myriad of issues that confront participants in this complex industry. The firm's nuclear practice stays on the cutting edge of nuclear regulatory and policy issues.
New Nuclear Plant Licensing and Development
The firm’s lawyers have been at the forefront of the renaissance of the commercial nuclear power industry in the United States. Starting with our involvement in the development of the NRC’s licensing regime and the Utility Requirements Document for new plants in the 1990s, our heavy involvement in the nuclear development incentives enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, to our current representation of one of the first applicants to construct a new nuclear plant in the United States in over 30 years, our clients and our lawyers have been active participants in every step of the process of developing new nuclear power plants.
In 2009, the firm successfully represented the applicants in the first ever contested Early Site Permit proceeding, and the first Limited Work Authorization for safety related construction, before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The firm continues to act as lead counsel for the same applicant with respect to its application for a Combined License for two new nuclear units. The COL application is the “Reference COLA,” or lead application, for all applications referencing the Westinghouse AP1000 design, and the firm is providing advice regarding standard application issues in that context.
The attorneys in the firm’s nuclear practice group are also regularly engaged in commercial and construction issues involving the Engineering Procurement and Construction contract relative to the proposed nuclear units, as well as in the applicant’s interactions with the United States Department of Energy and other federal agencies regarding the proposed new nuclear units.
Nuclear Licensing and Regulatory Compliance
The firm regularly represents its clients in a diverse array of other nuclear licensing matters. The firm has acted as counsel to the successful applicant for renewed facility operating licenses and to successful applicants for the transfer of operating licenses to new owners and new operators of nuclear power plants. The firm provides counsel and advice concerning a wide variety of regulatory and license compliance issues, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s license amendment process and compliance with Department of Energy regulations covering the international exchange of nuclear information. The firm understands the special importance of safety and security to its nuclear clients and continues to offer guidance on emerging regulatory issues in that area.
Nuclear Waste Issues
The firm has been intimately involved in all aspects of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The firm continues to serve as lead counsel in judicial proceedings to enforce the rights of utilities under the Act and to preserve the integrity of the Nuclear Waste Fund, currently representing clients in both trial and the appellate stages of this litigation. The firm's counsel is often sought regarding potential amendments to the Act, and the firm has provided advice in connection with the development and licensing of on-site nuclear fuel storage facilities and independent spent fuel storage installations. In addition, the firm continues to represent clients in connection with the negotiation of contracts with vendors of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Treatment and Storage services.
The firm has a long history of involvement in providing counsel to its clients concerning proposed legislation and the legislative process itself. Our attorneys have experience in analyzing and drafting legislative proposals and interacting with policy-makers regarding the development and regulation of nuclear energy. Our lawyers regularly consult with the governmental affairs representatives of our clients, with industry associations, and members of Congress regarding potential nuclear legislation, particularly in connection with energy and climate change legislation pending before the United States Congress.
Enforcement Proceedings and Investigations
Our lawyers have extensive experience providing counsel and representation to licensees and individuals in connection with NRC enforcement proceedings, investigations by NRC, the Department of Labor and state agencies, particularly proceedings initiated pursuant to the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act and the Energy Reorganization Act. We are intimately familiar with the impact such proceedings have on companies and individuals and assist our clients not only with effective advocacy but also help them devise strategies to minimize the adverse regulatory, economic and public relations effects that can occur in such situations.
Nuclear Fuel Supply
The firm’s practice includes the representation of nuclear operators in connection with the issues that arise in the acquisition and processing of nuclear fuel. Our lawyers represent purchasers of nuclear material, conversion and enrichment in the negotiation and drafting of contracts with suppliers, as well as interact with various federal and state agencies that regulate such transactions.
The firm’s lawyers have extensive experience with regard to the special issues confronting licensees in their status as employer. We have provided counsel and representation to clients in connection with allegations of retaliation against “whistleblowers,” before both NRC and the Department of Labor. We have also assisted clients in designing corporate concerns and other compliance systems to help them ensure that employee rights are protected.
Spent Nuclear Fuel Litigation
Since approximately 1997, the firm has served as counsel in litigation relating to the Government’s failure to pick up and store spent nuclear fuel pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The firm continues to represent its client in the ongoing appeals of these matters and has assisted clients in filing an additional lawsuit based on similar grounds.