United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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

HPPOS-199 PDR-9111210334

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

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


Subject codes: 11.3, 12.7, 12.9

Applicability: Byproduct Material

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012