United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC's Jurisdiction at U.S. Armed Forces Bases Abroad

HPPOS-199 PDR-9111210334

See the memorandum from T. F. Dorian to V. Miller dated July 16, 1985.

The NRC has both territorial and personal jurisdiction at U.S. armed forces bases in foreign countries. At these bases, NRC personal jurisdiction applies but may conflict with the regulations of the host country and is not normally exercised.

The NRC has both territorial and personal jurisdiction at U.S. armed forces bases abroad. Normally, the NRC's territorial jurisdiction is limited to the licensing and regulation of special, source, and byproduct nuclear material within the geographical limits of the U.S. and its trust territories and possessions. This type of jurisdiction ceases when a person exports nuclear material outside U.S. territorial limits (i.e., the person sends or takes the material past U.S. customs).

The NRC's personal jurisdiction is not limited in this manner. Personal jurisdiction travels with a U.S. person, whether as an individual licensee or the entire U.S. Army as a licensee, wherever that person may be using nuclear materials - in the U.S., neutral territories, on the high seas, abroad, or in space. As a legal matter, NRC has no problem regulating U.S. persons when they use nuclear materials in the U.S. or in such areas as Antarctica, Puerto Rico, on the high seas, or in space. It does run into a problem, though, when it attempts to regulate U.S. persons using nuclear materials within the geographical jurisdiction of another country.

The problem arises because NRC's jurisdiction over a U.S. person using nuclear materials in another country may conflict with that country's jurisdiction. The NRC has solved this possible conflict of laws in the same manner for private persons and for public persons such as the armed forces. For individuals, the NRC policy has been to exert its jurisdiction only until they reach the geographical jurisdiction or the customs area of another country. For the armed forces using nuclear materials at U.S. bases around the world without having exported these materials, it has had to temper this policy. U.S. armed forces bases abroad are considered part of the U.S. for the purpose of carrying out U.S. laws; however, they also are part of the territory of the country in which they are located. Consequently, the rights and responsibilities of both the U.S. and the host country are spelled out in treaties and other documents. To avoid any conflict with other countries or with the armed forces, NRC's policy has been that it will not exercise its jurisdiction, personal or territorial, as long as the armed forces use their own internal permit systems.

Regulatory references: Atomic Energy Act, License Conditions

Subject codes: 11.3, 12.7, 12.9

Applicability: Byproduct Material

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, June 16, 2015