NRC expresses concern about emergency procedures

7 June 2011

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said 6 June, that many of the country’s nuclear power plants still have work to do to either train their staff on emergency procedures or ensure their severe accident management guidelines (SAMG) are up-to-date.

The findings come in response to inspection of the SAMG at the country’s 104 nuclear power plants, which was ordered by the agency task force examining the lessons learned from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“While overall we believe plants are safe and all of the NRC’s efforts aim to ensure the plants never need to use these guidelines, we are concerned that our inspectors found many of the plants have work to do in either training their staff on these procedures or ensuring the guidelines are appropriately updated,” said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

Resident inspectors examined where the plants keep the SAMGs, how the guidelines are updated and how the plants train their personnel to carry out the guidelines.

The inspectors found that all plants have implemented the guidelines, with 97% of the plants keeping SAMG documents in their Technical Support Center, generally considered the best location for properly implementing the guidelines. The inspectors found SAMGs in 89% of plant control rooms, and in 71% of plant Emergency Operations Facilities.

The inspections highlighted the fact that only 42% of the plants currently include SAMGs in their periodic review/revision procedures.

In addition, while staff at most plants (92%) received initial training on SAMGs, only 61% of the plants periodically include the guidelines in their emergency drills.

The NRC’s task force will incorporate the SAMG inspection results into its short-term review to help determine if any immediate changes to NRC requirements are called for in light of events at Fukushima.

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