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nization Act,] or of the Atomic Energy Act,” $210(g); (2) the absence of any provision generally authorizing the Secretary to award exemplary or punitive damages; and (3) the provisions requiring that a whistle-blower invoking the statute file an administrative complaint within 30 days after the violation occurs, and that the Secretary resolve the complaint within 90 days after its filing. See &$ 210(b)(1) and (b)(2)(A). In the court's view, Congress enacted this scheme to foreclose all remedies to whistle-blowers who themselves violate nuclear-safety requirements, to limit exemplary damages awards against the nuclear industry, and to guarantee speedy resolution of allegations of nuclear-safety violations goals the court found incompatible with the broader remedies petitioner sought under state tort law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of petitioner's emotional distress claim on the basis of the District Court's reasoning. 871 F. 2d 22, 23 (1989). That court concluded that Congress had intended to foreclose nuclear whistle-blowers from pursuing state tort remedies and stated its belief that the District Court "correctly identified and applied the relevant federal and state law.” Id., at 23. Because of an apparent conflict with a decision of the First Circuit, see Norris v. Lumbermen's Mutual Casualty Co., 881 F. 2d 1144 (1989), we granted certiorari. 493 U. S. 1055 (1990).


The sole question for our resolution is whether the Federal Government has pre-empted petitioner's state-law tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Our cases have established that state law is pre-empted under the Supremacy Clause, U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2, in three circumstances. First, Congress can define explicitly the extent to which its enactments pre-empt state law. See Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U. S. 85, 95-98 (1983). Pre

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emption fundamentally is a question of congressional intent, see Schneidewind v. ANR Pipeline Co., 485 U. S. 293, 299 (1988), and when Congress has made its intent known through explicit statutory language, the courts' task is an easy one.

Second, in the absence of explicit statutory language, state law is pre-empted where it regulates conduct in a field that Congress intended the Federal Government to occupy exclusively. Such an intent may be inferred from a "scheme of federal regulation . . . so pervasive as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it,” or where an Act of Congress “touch[es] a field in which the federal interest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject.” Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U. S. 218, 230 (1947). Although this Court has not hesitated to draw an inference of field pre-emption where it is supported by the federal statutory and regulatory schemes, it has emphasized: “Where ... the field which Congress is said to have pre-empted” includes areas that have "been traditionally occupied by the States,” congressional intent to supersede state laws must be “clear and manifest.'” Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U. S. 519, 525 (1977), quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U. S., at 230.

Finally, state law is pre-empted to the extent that it actually conflicts with federal law. Thus, the Court has found pre-emption where it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal requirements, see, e. g., Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U. S. 132, 142–143 (1963), or where state law "stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U. S. 52, 67 (1941). See also Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U. S. 725, 747 (1981).


5 By referring to these three categories, we should not be taken to mean that they are rigidly distinct. Indeed, field pre-emption may be under

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It is undisputed that Congress has not explicitly preempted petitioner's state-law tort action by inserting specific pre-emptive language into any of its enactments governing the nuclear industry. The District Court and apparently the Court of Appeals did not rest their decisions on a field preemption rationale either, but rather on what they considered an actual tension between petitioner's cause of action and the congressional goals reflected in $ 210. In this Court, respondent seeks to defend the judgment both on the lower courts' rationale and on the alternative ground that petitioner's tort claim is located within a field reserved for federal regulation—the field of nuclear safety. Before turning to the specific aspects of $ 210 on which the lower courts based their decisions, we address the field pre-emption question.

B This is not the first case in which the Court has had occasion to consider the extent to which Congress has pre-empted the field of nuclear safety. In Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Comm'n, 461 U. S. 190 (1983), the Court carefully analyzed the congressional enactments relating to the nuclear industry in order to decide whether a California law that conditioned the construction of a nuclear powerplant on a state agency's approval of the plant’s nuclear-waste storage and disposal facilities fell within a pre-empted field. Although we need not repeat all of that analysis here, we summarize briefly the Court's discussion of the actions Congress has taken in the nuclear realm and the conclusions it drew from these actions.

Until 1954, the use, control, and ownership of all nuclear technology remained a federal monopoly. The Atomic Energy Act of 1954, 68 Stat. 919, as amended, 42 U. S. C.

stood as a species of conflict pre-emption: A state law that falls within a pre-empted field conflicts with Congress' intent (either express or plainly implied) to exclude state regulation. Nevertheless, because we previously have adverted to the three-category framework, we invoke and apply it here.

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$ 2011 et seq. (1982 ed.), stemmed from Congress' belief that the national interest would be served if the Government encouraged the private sector to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes under a program of federal regulation and licensing. The Act implemented this policy decision by opening the door to private construction, ownership, and operation of commercial nuclear-power reactors under the strict supervision of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). See Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group, Inc., 438 U. S. 59, 63 (1978). The AEC was given exclusive authority to license the transfer, delivery, receipt, acquisition, possession, and use of all nuclear materials. As was observed in Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 435 U. S. 519, 550 (1978): “The [Federal Government's] prime area of concern in the licensing context [was) national security, public health, and safety.” With respect to these matters, no significant role was contemplated for the States.

In 1959, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act in order to "clarify the respective responsibilities . . . of the States and the [Federal Government] with respect to the regulation of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials,” 42 U. S. C. $ 2021(a)(1) (1982 ed.), and generally to increase the States' role. The 1959 amendments authorized the AEC, by agreements with state governors, to discontinue the Federal Government's regulatory authority over certain nuclear materials under specified conditions. State regulatory programs adopted under the amendment were required to be "coordinated and compatible” with those of the AEC. $ 2021(g).

In 1974, Congress passed the Energy Reorganization Act, 88 Stat. 1233, 42 U. S. C. $ 5801 et seq. (1982 ed.), which abolished the AEC and transferred its regulatory and licensing authority to the NRC. $5841(f). The 1974 Act also expanded the number and range of safety responsibilities under the NRC's charge. As was observed in Pacific Gas, the

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NRC does not purport to exercise its authority based upon economic considerations, but rather is concerned primarily with public health and safety. See 461 U. S., at 207. Finally, in 1978, Congress amended both the Atomic Energy Act and the Energy Reorganization Act. Pub. L. 95-601, 92 Stat. 2947. Among these amendments is $210, 42 U. S. C. $ 5851 (1982 ed.), which, as discussed above, encourages employees to report safety violations and provides a mechanism for protecting them against retaliation for doing so.

After reviewing the relevant statutory provisions and legislative history, the Court in Pacific Gas concluded that “the Federal Government has occupied the entire field of nuclear safety concerns, except the limited powers expressly ceded to the States.” 461 U. S., at 212. Although we ultimately determined that the California statute at issue there did not fall within the pre-empted field, we made clear our view that Congress intended that only “the Federal Government should regulate the radiological safety aspects involved in the construction and operation of a nuclear plant.” Id., at 205. In the present dispute, respondent and petitioner disagree as to whether petitioner's tort action falls within the boundaries of the pre-empted field referred to in Pacific Gas.

Respondent maintains that the pre-empted field of “nuclear safety” is a large one, and that $ 210 is an integral part of it. Specifically, respondent contends that because the Federal Government is better able to promote nuclear safety if whistle-blowers pursue the federal remedy, the whole area marked off by $210 should be considered part of the pre-empted field identified in Pacific Gas. Accordingly, respondent argues that all state-law remedies for conduct that is covered by $ 210 are pre-empted by Congress' decision to have the Federal Government exclusively regulate the field of nuclear safety.

Petitioner and the United States as amicus curiae, on their part, contend that petitioner's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is not pre-empted because the

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