Environment News Service

AmeriScan: July 28, 2000

NUCLEAR REGULATORS WANT BOOSTED SAFETY FROM FUEL MAKERS

WASHINGTON, DC, July 28, 2000 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is changing its regulations to increase confidence in the safety margins for facilities that possess and process large quantities of certain types of uranium and plutonium. The changes require licensees to analyze their operations to identify potential accidents, and take actions to reduce the likelihood and effects of those postulated accidents, depending on their consequences. Under the new regulations, licensees must develop a plan for performing their safety analysis within six months of the rule's effective date, and the analysis must be completed within four years.

Such an analysis should identify:

  • plant and external hazards and their potential for causing accidents
  • potential accident sequences and their likelihood and consequences
  • structures, systems, equipment, components and activities of personnel relied on to prevent or mitigate potential accidents at the facility.
Licensees also must establish a safety program that provides protection against accidents that could result in release of radioactive materials or certain hazardous chemicals in excess of NRC standards. The changes were prompted by an NRC review conducted after a fuel fabrication facility had a near criticality incident - an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction - in May of 1991. As a result of that review, NRC took steps to improve licensee safety programs, event reporting and regulatory guidance. The new rules would apply to existing fuel fabrication facilities and a planned future mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility. The text of the revised regulations is available at: http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/CFR/PART070/index.html

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