T6 Virginia Uranium v. Warren: What the Supreme Court's Decision Means for Interim Storage, Yucca Mountain, and Reactors

On June 17, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Virginia Uranium v. Warren. The case involved a landowner’s challenge to the State of Virginia’s ban on uranium mining on private land. The United States, including the NRC, submitted an amicus brief asserting that, if Virginia Uranium’s allegations concerning the motivation of the ban were true, the ban constituted an improper attempt to regulate activities that are preempted by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (AEA)—namely, uranium milling and tailings management—that are either within the sole province of the NRC or can only be regulated pursuant to Agreement State authority. In two separate opinions each signed by three members of the Supreme Court, six justices concluded the Virginia ban was not preempted by the AEA.

Each of the three panelists participated in the argument/briefing before the Court. They will discuss the impact of the Court’s recent decision and what it means for potential conflicts between State sovereignty in the regulation of public safety and the NRC’s exclusive authority to protect the public from radiological hazards. All areas of AEA preemption, including high‑level waste, interim storage and permanent disposal, and reactors, could be affected.


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, December 29, 2020