Friday, August 19, 2011

NRC Seeks Prompt Action on Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission today directed its staff to complete several actions over the next 45 days in response to the 12 recommendations of its Near-Term Task Force on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, which submitted its report on July 12.

The Commission has asked the staff to produce a paper by September 9, outlining which of the recommendations 2-12 (recommendation 1 was that the entire regulatory framework be holistically reviewed) should be implemented immediately, including a public dialogue on the process, the schedule for which will be announced soon. It has also asked the staff to produce, by October 3, another paper prioritizing recommendations 2-12, explaining the rationale, and also engaging both the public and other stakeholders. Over the next 18 months, the staff will consider recommendation 1, to review the entire regulatory framework, balancing risk -informed regulation, and defence-in-depth considerations.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gaps in Current Probabilistic Risk Analysis (PRA) Methodology

Probabilistic Safety Analysis (PSA) of nuclear reactors (in the IAEA's usage), or Probabilistic Risk Analysis (PRA) in the USNRC's usage, is a technology that is being continually refined, both in response to those of its existing inadequacies that are already known to the original analysts and reviewers, and also in response to events that specifically underline one or more of such gaps. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, for example, increased the perceived urgency of addressing major gaps in nuclear reactor safety analyses and PSA/PRA techniques.

The USNRC was recently briefed on Severe Accidents and Options for Proceeding with Level 3 Probabilistic Risk Analysis (PRA Level 3). Meeting Agenda, Slides presented by Biff Bradley from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) , Stewart Lewis of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Karl N. Fleming (of KNF Consulting), and NRC Staff. Meeting Transcript.

The two main gaps as seen by the US NRC Staff include:

Modeling of Consequential Linked Events
Current PSA techniques have not focused on risk implications of event sequences where a consequent initiating event occurs while a plant is responding to the first. PSA/PRA methodologies traditionally have not considered the risk implications of initiating events leading to accidents at multiple units at the same site - such as the near-simultaneous swamping by the tsunami of diesel generating systems supplying emergency power to several different nuclear reactors, each of which then suffered core damage as a consequence.

Aqueous Dispersion of Radionuclides
The risk implications of a containment breach have traditionally been considered in PRA Level 3, but the focus has been on atmospheric dispersion. Fukushima showed that the possibility of aqueous dispersion of radionuclides, must also be studied and modeled, both from spent reactor fuel pools and from the reactor core itself. The water in the sprays used to cool the spent fuel pools and the core, as emergency measures in severe accident mitigation, resulted in both internal and external floods, and the radiological consequences of radionuclide dispersal through such events deserve to be better understood.