NRC reviews buried pipe oversight after leaks

8 September 2009

The NRC is planning to review oversight of buried pipes after recent leakages at several US commercial nuclear power plants.

“Although they have not jeopardized public health and safety, leaks from buried pipes continue to occur and we need to assess the NRC’s and licensee’s efforts to prevent them,” said NRC commissioner Gregory Jaczko.

Recent instances of leaks in buried pipes have primarily involved water containing elevated levels of tritium, a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The NRC continues to review how plants dealing with these leaks are using monitoring programs to confirm there is no significant effect on public health and safety and the environment.

“The agency’s handling of these events has focused on each incident as it occurs, but we need to look at what we’re doing on a generic level to determine what additional actions may be necessary.”

The staff must provide the Commission an information paper in early December that explains both ongoing and planned generic activities that address leaks from buried piping. Chairman Jaczko also asked the staff to discuss actions or plans regarding:

• Evaluating the adequacy of NRC requirements for designing, inspecting and maintaining safety-related buried piping, including rules governing operating reactors, reactor license renewal and new reactor licensing;

• Evaluating the adequacy of American Society of Mechanical Engineers Code for designing, inspecting and maintaining safety-related buried piping;

• Evaluating how effective current rules and voluntary initiatives for designing, inspecting and maintaining all nuclear power plant buried piping are in ensuring public health and protecting the environment, and;

• Recommending any necessary revisions to existing regulations, requirements, practices or oversight regarding the integrity of buried piping.


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