Skip to main content

NRC’s Blog on Fire Protection at US Nuclear Plants

There’s been a lot of confusion and misinterpretation over the past week in the media about how US nuclear plants meet fire protection regulations. NRC’s Director of Public Affairs, Eliot Brenner, posted a piece over the weekend clearing it up:

Let’s start with the bottom line — every U.S. nuclear power plant complies with the relevant NRC requirements for protecting its reactor from fire hazards. There may be confusion over the “exemptions” sometimes issued to some plants under the NRC’s least flexible fire protection approach, called Appendix R.

Appendix R is effectively a one-size-fits-all approach for plants that are in fact custom-built projects. Newer plants tend to be built closer to Appendix R requirements, while older plants are more likely to have difficulty meeting the goals.

The NRC knew from the start that the appendix wouldn’t apply to every part of every plant, so plants were going to apply for exemptions where Appendix R didn’t make sense. The NRC has a well-established process for reviewing exemption requests, which must have solid technical support in order to get approved. The federal court covering southern New York recently upheld the agency’s process — in fact, the court’s ruling even noted the NRC rejects exemption requests if they’re not justified.

You can see an everyday example of exemptions at the DMV, when it comes to having “acceptable vision” for a drivers license exam. Since not everyone’s vision falls in the acceptable range, DMV regulations allow people to wear glasses or contacts. This can be considered an “exemption” from uncorrected vision requirements that’s still acceptable and compliant with the law.

Even if a plant has exemptions from parts of Appendix R, the NRC is satisfied that plant has an appropriate overall fire protection program.

Bottom line? The fix for an exemption or a compensatory measure has to be safe. Otherwise it won’t fly with the NRC.

There's more I left out so be sure to stop by and see the rest.

Comments

Safety issues in the nuclear industry have been blown way out of proportion and this post puts a valued sense of realism on the subject. There's always a risk of fire, but as long as it's suitably risk assessed and managed properly then we're all safe. The NRC are doing enough to ensure that.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…