Views on Constitutionality of Proposed Legislation Affecting Nuclear Powerplant Licensees

B-207029: Published: Aug 10, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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Views were requested on the constitutionality of a proposed law which would provide that nuclear power plant licensees lose their licenses unless they meet conditions which would require them to make additional expenditures. If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission follows the proposed revocation requirement, it might violate a licensee's constitutional right to due process of law. Specifically, two issues were addressed: (1) whether a person licensed under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 has a property interest in his license within the purview of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and (2) whether enacting provisions that require the revocation of that license, if the licensee does not take certain actions involving substantial financial commitments, is a retrospective impairment of property rights and as such constitutes an unlawful deprivation of property. GAO concluded that: (1) a licensee has a property interest in its license; and (2) a statute that impairs existing financial interests does not mean that it violates the right to due process of law.

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