The following news article originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff told attendees at NEI’s Licensing Forum this week that the nuclear energy industry needs to communicate how the FLEX strategy would work to bolster public safety.
FLEX, the industry’s response to the NRC’s March 12 post-Fukushima order requiring nuclear facility operators to mitigate the consequences of an extreme natural event, provides additional layers of backup power and reactor cooling capability by stationing supplemental emergency equipment—generators, battery packs, pumps, air compressors and battery chargers—on reactor sites and at several off-site storage locations that can be deployed to any distressed facility.
The NRC last month included FLEX in its Interim Staff Guidance to implement the strategy as a response to the loss of a nuclear facility’s off-site electric power.
The NRC has endorsed FLEX, and the industry has already begun ordering and acquiring FLEX equipment.
However, Ostendorff said a meeting with public service commissioners suggested to him that FLEX is not fully understood. “There is some room for clarification by the industry,” he said.
He said he did not see a “clearly articulated congruence of FLEX actions on the one hand and the mitigating strategies order and parts of the station blackout, parts of emergency planning and parts of operating procedures.”
The last three items refer to other parts of high-priority recommendations for safety enhancements the NRC has issued following the report of its post-Fukushima lessons learned task force.
Ostendorff continued, “It would be very helpful to see a particular plant, hopefully a boiling water reactor, where one takes the FLEX generic strategy and uses that plant as a prototype to at least talk about the interface between FLEX and the mitigating strategies order, SBO (station blackout), EP (emergency preparedness) and integration procedures. I personally think that would be very helpful to the NRC and to the American public.”
Adrian Heymer, NEI’s executive director for strategic programs, said that Ostendorff was not suggesting that the industry back away from the FLEX strategy or launch a pilot project before proceeding. Heymer said he believed Ostendorff was recommending that the industry needs to translate FLEX from an abstract set of principles to actions that integrate with other plant procedures—and communicate them to enable a better public understanding.
“Ostendorff asked the question: How does FLEX integrate into the procedures regarding station blackout and emergency preparedness?” Heymer said.
The response to that question, Heymer said, is that the industry is developing the procedure to show how it fits into the full range of procedures.
Ostendorff said he understood that FLEX was “a very key center point of industry response to carry out the mitigating strategy order.”
FLEX’s importance may be amplified because it offers additional strategies for mitigating a station blackout, a complete loss of electricity at a facility. Ostendorff said he considers the station blackout rulemaking the most important of the high priority actions. “I am watching very closely to see how we are marching forward to the completion of this rulemaking in 2014. I think this is a big deal.”