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Decision for change stems from lack of customization

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

As part of a transition to customized fire-protection programs, Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant plans to submit its new program in September to the regulatory commission.

In 2011, Calvert Cliffs informed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its intentions to file a license amendment request with the commission by Sept. 30 based on its transition to a National Fire Protection Association 805 risk-informed fire-protection program.

Risk-informed decision making is an approach in which insights from probabilistic risk assessments are considered with other engineering insights, according to the NRC 2011-2012 Information Digest.

Currently, 46 reactors, including Calvert Cliffs, are planning to transition to the risk-informed fire-protection approach, according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. He said that accounts for 45 percent of the commercial power reactors currently licensed to operate in the U.S.

Sheehan said during a phone interview that the NFPA 805 is a way for plants to break the plant down into different areas and look at the risks for each of those areas.

In an email further explaining the approach, Sheehan wrote that it’s “a means by which plant owners can customize their fire-protection programs to differing plant situations based on risk. For example, the risk of fire in an otherwise empty room with concrete walls with electrical cable trays is less than for the same room with a barrel of lubricating oil stored in a corner.”

In the email, Sheehan said the older fire-protection regulations, known as Appendix R, “are effectively a one-size-fits-all approach for plants. We believe the shift to NFPA 805 will allow for a more customized approach.”

In June, the Union of Concerned Scientists addressed letters to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Attorney General Doug Gansler, several state agencies and the state fire marshal asking them to contact NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane to “urge her to better protect the citizens of Maryland by bringing the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant into compliance with fire protection regulations as expeditiously as possible,” the letter states.

The UCS is an alliance of more than 400,000 citizens and scientists working to combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future, according to the group’s website, www.ucsusa.org.

In Sheehan’s email, he said it’s the NRC’s goal to complete the review of the NFPA 805 within two years of it being submitted. In the meantime, Sheehan said during the phone interview, plants may find new fire-protection issues.

Sheehan said in the email that the NRC will not penalize the plant if new issues are uncovered, but rather “ensures those issues are appropriately handled as they’re identified. All new issues are accounted for with compensatory measures, and will either be fixed by a change to the plant or evaluated as part of the transition to NFPA 805.”

Just because the plant is undergoing the transition to a new risk-informed fire-protection program does not mean there are not fire regulations being followed, Sheehan said during the phone interview.

CCNPP spokesman Kory Raftery said the Lusby plant is undergoing various fire-risk assessments “all the time” and there are several measures in place to prevent and combat fires.

“We have a strong fire protection program, which includes the design of the facility, active and passive systems as part of our fire protection,” Raftery said. “We also have special fire-based procedures for operators, who perform fire-watch checks regularly, an on-site fire marshal and a fire engine on site as part of our fire protection strategy.”

ascott@somdnews.com