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Role of Regulation in Nuclear Plant Safety: A New Series of Posts

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

President Trump seeks to lessen the economic burden from excessive regulation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) initiated Project AIM before the 2016 elections seeking to right-size the agency and position it to become more adaptive to shifting needs in the future. And the nuclear industry launched its Delivering the Nuclear Promise campaign seeking productivity and efficiency gains to enable nuclear power to compete better against natural gas and other sources of electricity.

In light of these concurrent efforts, we will be reviewing momentous events in nuclear history and posting a series of commentaries on the role of regulation in nuclear plant safety. The objective is to better understand under-regulation and over-regulation to better define “Goldilocks” regulation—regulation that is neither too lax nor too onerous, but just right. That better understanding will enable us to engage the NRC more effectively as the agency pursues Project AIM and the industry tries to deliver on its promise. Read more >

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Benny Hill Explains the NRC Approach to Nuclear Safety

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safety regulations require that nuclear reactors be designed to protect the public from postulated accidents, such as the rupture of pipes that would limit the flow of cooling water to the reactor. These regulations include General Design Criteria 34 and 35 in Appendix A to 10 CFR Part 50.

Emergency diesel generators (EDGs) are important safety systems since they provide electricity to emergency equipment if outside power is cut off to the plant—another postulated accident. This electricity, for example, would allow pumps to continue to send cooling water to the reactor vessel to prevent overheating damage to the core. So the NRC has requirements that limit how long a reactor can continue operating without one of its two EDGs under different conditions. The shortest period is 3 days while the longest period is 14 days. Read more >

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UCS to Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Big THANKS!

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

This spring, I ran into Mike Weber, Director of the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), at a break during a Commission briefing. The Office of Research hosts a series of seminars which sometimes include presentations by external stakeholders. I asked Mike if it would be possible for me to make a presentation as part of that series. Read more >

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Nuclear Reactors and Flood Protection

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #48

Safety by Intent

Oconee Flood Protection Issue

In August 2006, NRC inspectors identified a deficiency in a flood protection measure at the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina. Specifically, the inspectors discovered that workers removed a 6-inch by 10-inch panel in the 5-foot tall flood wall around the Standby Shutdown Facility (SSF) to allow temporary cables to be used during a modification. When the work was completed and the cables removed, the panel was not re-installed.

Read more >

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Nuclear Plant Containment Failure: Overpressure

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #30

Disaster by Design

Defense-in-depth is a primary element of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approach to the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants. Many of the NRC’s regulatory requirements seek to reduce the chances of reactor core meltdowns to as low as achievable levels. But recognizing that the consequences of low probability events like meltdowns, sometimes called “black swans,” can be disastrous, the NRC also has regulatory requirements seeking to reduce the chances that radioactivity gets released in harmful amounts during an accident. This commentary describes the primary containments used in pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs) and how too much pressure can cause containment to fail. Read more >

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