Thursday, July 28, 2011

NRC Briefing: Severe Accidents and Level 3 PRA

The staff of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission today held a briefing for the Commissioners on Severe Accidents, and Options for proceeding with Probabilistic Risk Asessment - Level 3 (PRA Level 3).

Traditionally, PRA/PSA Level 3 has not been a strong regulatory requirement because the results of Level 1 (usually the core damage frequency, CDF) and the results of Level 2 (large early release fraction/frequency, LERF) can be used as surrogate proxies for the types of Risk Metrics that a Level 3 PSA/PRA might generate, which could include the following: the number of early fatalities; the number of early injuries, the number of latent cancer fatalities, or the total population dose at different locations; as well as the individual early and latent fatality risk, and the economic cost of mitigation actions taken following a severe accident. The CDF, for example, can proxy for the latent cancer risk, while the LERF could proxy for the prompt fatality risk.

However, a number of potential benefits are foreseen for a full PRA Level 3 analysis, including feedback into risk-informed regulatory guidance for new reactors and use of risk insights in forthcoming SMR design reviews. In addition, capabilities such as modeling of radionuclide aqueous dispersion modes, and multi-unit risk assessment could also be addressed. The modeling of radionuclide dispersal in the event of a severe accident which is initiated by an external event such as an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane also calls for additional modeling efforts, since meteorological variables such as windspeed & direction, ambient precipitation and humidity may not correspond to what is normally expected for that site at that time of year (for example).

NRC Staff plan to use an existing SPAR (Standardized Plant Assessment Risk) model as the basis for proceeding to PSA Level 3. The SPAR model is essentially a plant-specific PSA/PRA Level 1 designed to incorporate both external and internal initiating events, recent modifications of which include capabilities to yield LERFs. Since external hazards are site-specific, much greater value can be expected to be derived if the SPAR model selected for development to PRA Level 3 is for a NPP site that is either representative of the entire population of NPPs, or, has a larger than average number and type of external hazards.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NRC Releases Near-term Report of Fukushima Task Force

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released the Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Da-ichi Accident: Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century.

The report has 12 recommendations, which I cite here in full, verbatim.

Clarifying the Regulatory Framework
1. The Task Force recommends establishing a logical, systematic, and coherent regulatory framework for adequate protection that appropriately balances defense-in-depth and risk considerations.
Ensuring Protection
2. The Task Force recommends that the NRC require licensees to reevaluate and upgrade as necessary the design-basis seismic and flooding protection of structures, systems, and components for each operating reactor.
3. The Task Force recommends, as part of the longer term review, that the NRC evaluate potential enhancements to the capability to prevent or mitigate seismically induced fires and floods.
Enhancing Mitigation
4. The Task Force recommends that the NRC strengthen station blackout mitigation capability at all operating and new reactors for design-basis and beyond-design-basis external events.
5. The Task Force recommends requiring reliable hardened vent designs in boiling water reactor facilities with Mark I and Mark II containments. (Section 4.2.2)
6. The Task Force recommends, as part of the longer term review, that the NRC identify insights about hydrogen control and mitigation inside containment or in other buildings as additional information is revealed through further study of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident.
7. The Task Force recommends enhancing spent fuel pool makeup capability and instrumentation for the spent fuel pool.
8. The Task Force recommends strengthening and integrating onsite emergency response capabilities such as emergency operating procedures, severe accident management guidelines, and extensive damage mitigation guidelines .
Strengthening Emergency Preparedness
9. The Task Force recommends that the NRC require that facility emergency plans address prolonged station blackout and multiunit events.
10. The Task Force recommends, as part of the longer term review, that the NRC pursue additional emergency preparedness topics related to multiunit events and prolonged station blackout.
11. The Task Force recommends, as part of the longer term review, that the NRC should pursue emergency preparedness topics related to decisionmaking, radiation monitoring, and public education.
Improving the Efficiency of NRC Programs
12. The Task Force recommends that the NRC strengthen regulatory oversight of licensee safety performance (i.e., the Reactor Oversight Process) by focusing more attention on defense-in-depth requirements consistent with the recommended defense-in-depth framework.