NRC approves fire standard at Oconee

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the Oconee Nuclear Station’s adoption of the National Fire Protection Association’s Performance-Based Standard for Fire Protection for Light-Water Reactor Electric Generating Plants (NFPA 805) after the plant submitted its formal application to switch to NFPA 805 in May 2008 and revised the application in April 2010.

Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko said that after making safety improvements, the 2,538 MW Oconee station became the second applicant to receive NRC approval to transition to the new fire protection standard. Approval of Oconee’s application also starts a six month clock for the other reactors to submit their fire protection license amendment requests to the NRC.

NFPA 805 describes how existing reactors can provide acceptable fire protection programs by applying risk-informed, performance-based requirements and fundamental fire protection design elements.

Under the NFPA 805 standard, reactor owners and operators must perform engineering analyses to demonstrate their installed fire protection systems and features will meet specific fire protection and nuclear safety goals, objectives, and performance criteria.

For Oconee, the NFPA 805 analysis led the plant to make several modifications, including installation of additional fire detection systems and upgraded fire barriers. The NRC’s safety evaluation for Oconee’s transition concludes the plant has documented and demonstrated its fire safety enhancements.

An additional 46 reactors at 29 sites, representing 17 utilities, have told the NRC they plan to adopt the NFPA 805 approach. For those plants choosing not to transition to NFPA 805, the Commission has determined that licensees must have identified all fire-induced circuit failure violations and non-compliances, as well as implement compensatory measures.

These licensees were granted a total of 36 months of enforcement discretion to end November 2012.

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