Forum on fire

9 May 2017

The UK’s nuclear industry fire safety committee is working to share best practice. We look at some of its recent work to harmonise standards and examine emergency response capabilities.

The Nuclear Industry Fire Safety Co-ordinating Committee (NIFSCC) was created following the Windscale Reactor event in 1957 to ensure the sharing of learning from fire events and best practices across the UK nuclear industry. It is one of the oldest national nuclear committees.

Initial membership was limited to nuclear site licensees. However, membership has changed over the years to ensure it continues to add the best possible value to the UK nuclear industry in the field of fire response, fire engineering and fire safety. Members now include nuclear site licensees, fire engineering specialist consultancies, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services.

In addition, the NIFSCC now operates as a sub-group to the Safety Directors Forum (SDF). The SDF membership is made up of licensee directors and therefore provides support from the highest level within the industry for continued fire safety excellence across the industry.

Main aims

The primary function of the NIFSCC is the sharing of operating experience (OPEX) and best practices in the field of fire safety. It is essential following fire events that the root causes are identified and shared across the industry to prevent reoccurrence. Each member is required to produce a ‘4-box model’ that covers the following four areas:

  • What’s going well
  • What’s not going well
  • What to watch – looking forward
  • Recommendations / suggestions

More significant events are discussed through stand-alone agenda items as necessary. This ensures there is time to fully understand causal factors and discuss whether the events represent a threat to fire safety across the industry.

The committee has membership representation on British Standard committees to ensure, where appropriate, new or revised standards reflect the needs of the nuclear industry. To coordinate this work a standards secretary provides quarterly reviews of fire safety standards and Codes of Practice that are being reviewed, highlighting any proposed changes, their potential impact and providing an opportunity for the committee to influence the document.

One of the main aims of the committee is to ensure members are given opportunities to maintain or increase their competency, enabling them to safeguard their organisation or those they are supporting from fire and its potential effects on both life safety and nuclear safety. An example of this was the October 2016 meeting where members received a continued professional development (CPD) session on passive fire protection products available on the market, their performance ratings and the scenarios in which they could be used. Within the presentation products for ensuring adequate fire resisting seals around services e.g. pipes, ventilation ducting and cable trays which pass through fire resisting compartment boundaries were discussed. Non-conventional fire barrier construction methods were also covered.

Recent activities

The NIFSCC through its membership has identified a conflict between Approved Document B (Fire Safety) of the UK Building Regulations and BS7671 (Requirements for Electrical Wiring Regulations). The conflict relates to the protection of building occupants from thermal effects including those created from electrical installations. The criteria for determining the level of protection differs between BS7671 and the Building Regulations. NIFSCC is seeking to align the approach to ensure minimal conflict between fire engineers and electrical engineers in the design of buildings. This is particularly important with the renaissance of nuclear new build in the UK.

Additionally, members of the NIFSCC visited the Washington Hall Fire Training Centre in Lancashire to receive an overview of the UK Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) capabilities, which they subsequently fed back into the committee. There are 17 fire and rescue services in England that have been provided with USAR assets and funding. There are 30 USAR personnel, including a dog and handler. The teams are located to ensure a good geographical spread. Sixteen of the services host a team each and one in London hosts four teams. There is another team in Wales, and Scotland and Northern Ireland have a similar capability.

The October 2016 NIFSCC meeting saw the introduction of the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) to the NIFSCC. Mr. Neil Gibbins, IFE chief executive officer noted that the forum provided the perfect platform to raise awareness for industrial fire safety and provide industry continuous professional development.

Future work

In April 2017, a conventional Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) forum is to be held in addition to the normal meeting. Members will give a presentation on their approach to Fire Risk Assessments focusing on key areas such as:

  • Overview of the process – supporting work instructions, interaction with other processes, who undertakes the FRAs, what level of training and experience do they require.
  • The mechanics of the process – are the FRA’s quantitative or qualitative, how to they interact with Nuclear Safety Case internal hazards assessments such as those for fire and explosion, how large complex buildings are tackled e.g. are they split into smaller areas.
  • How findings are addressed – what processes systems do facilities use to record, track and sign off identified fire safety shortfalls.

The forum aims to demonstrate the different approaches to FRA across the UK nuclear industry, highlighting good practices and encouraging discussion.

The April 2017 meeting is to be hosted by Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS). As part of the meeting members will be introduced to the fire response capabilities of CFRS and will also get the opportunity to experience fire phenomenon such as ‘flash over’ and ‘backdraught’ using their training facilities. By witnessing at first hand the destructive nature of compartment fire conditions, NIFSCC members will have a unique experience to better help them apply modern fire engineering techniques such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) within nuclear new build building design.

The control of transient combustibles forms part of the work programme for the NIFSCC in 2017. The combustible loads associated with fixed plant items e.g. cables and combustible fluids such as lubricating oils within turbine generator sets is well known and quantified at the design stage. However, combustible loads associated with operations is harder to control due to its dynamic nature e.g. packaging materials and timber pallets for transporting equipment. This is especially the case during statutory outages or major construction projects where controlling the delivery of combustible materials to the work location can present problems. The aim of the NIFSCC is to share practices from across the UK sites for the management of transient combustibles to ensure that the risk from fire is kept to As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) at all times thus protecting life, nuclear, chemotoxic, environmental and asset safety in the event of a fire.

Finally, the NIFSCC aims to support the forthcoming Nuclear Power Fire and Risk Colloquium to be held at Bangor University. The theme of the colloquium focuses on cable fires, transformer and turbine fires. The event has already gained a number of key industry sponsors and expert speakers in the field of fire safety and fire engineering such as the BRE, FM Global and operators and developers of new power generation. Delegates will be able to register for this event through the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) from June 2017 but may express their early interest by contacting Jason Hill ( 

To find out more about NIFSCC or how you can contribute to forthcoming CPD sessions visit the Nuclear Institute website ( 

Safety USAR teams provide equipment to aid search and rescue operations

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