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Vogtle First to Implement New Voluntary Rule Allowing Improved Safety Focus

The following guest post comes from Victoria Anderson, senior project manager for risk assessment at NEI.

Since the NRC published the Probabilistic Risk Assessment Policy Statement in 1995, both the industry and NRC have worked to use risk information to better focus implementation of regulations at our country’s nuclear reactors. Risk information has helped advance maintenance efforts, routine inspections and testing procedures to ensure that licensees direct resources to the equipment and practices that are most important to safe, reliable operation of their plants.

In one such effort, in 2004, the NRC published a voluntary rule – 10 CFR 50.69, Risk-informed categorization and treatment of structures, systems and components for nuclear power reactors – that would allow licensees to refocus their equipment special treatment requirements on the structures, systems and components that are the most important to protecting the plant. Specifically, licensees implementing this voluntary rule are able to improve safety focus on important equipment identified in evaluations, while gaining operational flexibility by moving some equipment with very low safety impact to commercial treatment, rather than enhanced treatment.

Vogtle Electric Generating Plant
Last Wednesday marked a major advancement in risk informed regulation, as Plant Vogtle in Burke County, GA received an NRC safety evaluation report allowing them to implement 10 CFR 50.69 at its site. As the pilot plant for this effort, Southern will be the first utility to use the provisions of this rule to ensure that key plant programs are structured to focus plant attention on equipment most important to safe operations.

In particular, Vogtle will be able to take a graded approach to treatment of its equipment in various programs, including equipment qualification, testing and procurement, such that requirements for these programs are commensurate with the safety significance of the equipment. The personnel involved in these aspects of plant operations have been working through program development and training for over two years, and are well-positioned to support an efficient roll-out of the 10 CFR 50.69 program at Vogtle.

Thanks to Southern’s hard work on the pilot effort, facilitated by support from the NRC, the nuclear energy industry expects that several additional plants will follow Southern’s lead and use the insights and lessons learned from the pilot to pursue implementation of 10 CFR 50.69. This is just one of the many ways that utilities continually integrate the latest information and practices to operate our fleet more and more efficiently while maintaining safe operations.

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