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NRC Requests Input on Revising Station Blackout Rule

The following story originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has requested public input on potential revisions to the station blackout rule based on lessons from Fukushima, saying it is open to “flexible, performance-based strategies” that would meet safety needs.

The NRC’s 1988 rule (10 CFR 50.63) requires nuclear energy facilities to cope with the loss of off-site and on-site electricity—other than emergency batteries or alternate sources—for a specific duration based on site-specific factors. The coping time for each facility is based on the extent and reliability of a site’s emergency power sources, the frequency of blackouts, and the time needed to restore electricity. The rule assumes the power loss results from problems in the switchyard or transmission system or the effects of severe weather.

The proposed rulemaking is part of the response to recommendations an agency task force made after a review of lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima and is one of eight “Tier 1” actions to be undertaken “without delay.” Six of the eight high-priority task force recommendations are being addressed by orders and letters requesting information that the NRC issued last week.

A March 20 Federal Register notice said the staff, as directed by the commission, will use the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations’ “Special Report on the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (INPO-11-005)” in developing its technical bases for the rulemaking.

The staff said in the notice that the rulemaking approach will be founded on flexible, performance-based requirements to develop the most effective and efficient site-specific mitigation strategies, similar to the approach used by the industry and the NRC to develop strategies for dealing with the loss of large areas of a plant to fire or explosion after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko told a congressional panel last week that the station blackout rulemaking is a high priority, with a goal of completion within 24 to 30 months from October 2011.

The industry will submit comments by the May 4 deadline.

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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First