U.S. NRC Blog

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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Last-Minute Location Change for Next Week’s Seismic Meeting

Every once in awhile, one of our public meetings will outgrow its original location and we have to find a different venue. This sort of situation gets more complicated when there’s not much time to find a new location, and that’s what happened with our meeting next week to discuss the recently announced earthquake re-evaluations of U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.

The meeting’s now being held at the San Mateo Marriott on 1770 S. Amphlett Blvd. in San Mateo, Calif. The meeting will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT on April 2 and from 9 a.m. to noon PDT on April 3.

If you’re interested in the meeting but can’t make it to San Mateo, you can also participate via teleconference and webinar. For information on calling in or participating in the webinar, please contact Christopher Gratton at 301-415-1055 or christopher.gratton@nrc.gov.

NRC staff at the meeting will talk with nuclear power plant representatives about the generic methods to meet two agency requests for information. The first calls for reanalysis of each U.S. reactor’s earthquake risk. The second requires the plants to “walk down” each reactor to identify any near-term actions for enhancing earthquake resistance. Each U.S. nuclear power plant will develop specific plans for these efforts in the near future. These measures are included in the NRC’s recent information request to all U.S. nuclear power plants, part of our ongoing implementation of changes in response to last year’s events at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

High School Students DREAM of Careers in Engineering

Theresa Clark

As you would expect, the NRC employs technical staff in various engineering and science fields, from materials engineering to hydrology. We frequently recruit at colleges and universities to publicize our opportunities and find talented students who can become the nuclear professionals of tomorrow. Occasionally, our outreach extends to high-school and middle-school students, who may not have considered careers in our field but still have plenty of time to pursue that track.Last month, the NRC participated in the University of Maryland’s Women in Engineering DREAM Conference. “DREAM,” which stands for Developing Revolutionary Engineers and Mentors, was a free one-day event attended by hundreds of local high-school students and their parents.

The participants could choose from a number of exciting activities, including panel discussions by current students and engineering professionals, a presentation on the university’s sustainable WaterShed house, and planning sessions on college applications and financial aid. They also heard a motivational talk during lunch from a Northrop Grumman manager who fought to create a technical career for herself, starting from the moment her school administration said she had to take home economics instead of technical drawing.

Three NRC volunteers were active participants in this event. Theresa Clark of the Office of New Reactors — a University of Maryland (UMD) graduate in materials science and engineering — spoke about her NRC experience as part of a “DREAM Jobs” panel in the morning. The students and parents asked great questions about fun parts of the panelists’ jobs, how internships play a role in finding a career path, and whether the panelists had created a good balance between work and family life.

In the afternoon, I joined Suzanne Schroer of the Office of New Reactors (also pursuing a master’s degree in reliability engineering at UMD) at an information fair for the participants. For the better part of an hour, we told students what the NRC does, fielded questions, and gave out brochures and other materials to promote careers at the NRC.

Though these students still have years of education ahead of them, we hope that outreach opportunities like this one will help develop a future generation of technical professionals. We look forward to seeing some of them apply to NRC jobs in the future!

Kim English
Office of Human Resources

NRC Will Make Sure FirstEnergy Got It Right: What Caused the Cracks in the Davis-Besse Nuclear Plant’s Shield Building?

What caused the cracks in the shield building at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant and what needs to be done to ensure the building’s long-term safety? The NRC’s current inspection is focused on making sure we are satisfied with FirstEnergy’s answers to these questions.

We’ve previously written about the NRC’s exhaustive efforts to ensure the cracks found in the shield building around the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant’s containment structure are not compromising current safety. We will continue to take the necessary steps during the current inspection to make sure that the reasons for these cracks are well understood and FirstEnergy’s proposed actions to ensure the building’s long-term safety will accomplish this goal.

First, we studied the initial review done by the plant’s owner – FirstEnergy – in their root cause analysis to gain a better understanding of how the company arrived at its conclusions.

Then, a team of four NRC inspectors went to the plant with about 80 questions associated with this initial review. They recently finished a week-long inspection verifying the initial information and questioning the company’s conclusions. While at the plant, the NRC inspectors also reexamined the condition of the shield building.

By the time the company submitted the root-cause report to the NRC on February 28, in accordance with the plant’s commitment to the agency, our inspectors had already completed observations and verification of the company’s shield building testing. Months before, NRC inspectors had traveled to laboratories in California and Colorado to directly observe tests of concrete samples removed from the Davis-Besse shield building. These tests are a key component of the cracking analysis and NRC inspectors need to have confidence in their quality.

The NRC’s actions to accomplish an in-depth review of FirstEnergy’s root cause submittal involve further actions:

• examining key aspects of the analyses performed by the company’s contractor to support the FirstEnergy’s root cause conclusions;

• making sure First Energy considered all possible causes of cracking based on inputs from multiple sources such as the industry’s and the company’s operating experience; and

• thoroughly evaluating the company’s proposed corrective actions to make sure they are sufficient to maintain the long-term safety of shield building.

The NRC’s independent inspection will continue to challenge the company’s the root cause report and planned corrective actions until we have confidence in their thoroughness and accuracy.

The NRC will discuss its conclusions on the adequacy of FirstEnergy’s root cause analysis and proposed corrective actions at a public meeting to be scheduled after we complete our inspection. The details of this inspection will be outlined in a publically available report.

Background information on the discovery of the shield building cracks in October 2011 and the NRC’s response to the issue can be found in the following blog posts:

There Are No Cracks in Davis-Besse’s Containment – October 24, 2011

How did the NRC decide the shield building at Davis-Besse is safe? –December 12, 2011

Openness, transparency and Davis-Besse – January 10, 2012

Viktoria Mitlyng
Public Affairs Officer, Region III

Asking the public for input on the FY 2012 proposed fee rule

Once again, we are looking to hear from the public about proposed changes to our fee rule.

The agency is required by law to recover approximately 90 percent of our budget through fees to licensees and applicants. To accomplish this, each year we publish a rule that establishes the fees in a way that recoups the cost of “doing business” for the NRC.

There are two types of fees: licensee-specific and annual fees. Both types of fees incorporate the cost of the program oversight and agency overhead. Licensee-specific fees are based on hourly rates to recover the costs of specific services, such as reviewing applications and performing inspections. Annual fees recover all other costs.

For FY 2012, the NRC received about $1 billion. Based on this amount, the NRC must recover about $909.5 million directly from those we regulate by Sept. 30. In our regulations, approximately 40 percent of the fees will be billed for licensee-specific services and the remaining 60 percent will be billed as annual fees.

The proposed fee rule includes several changes. First, we are proposing to change the current hourly rate slightly from $273 to $274. Second, we would revise the flat license application fees (found in our federal guidelines 10 CFR Parts 170.21 and 170.31) to reflect the new hourly rate. Finally,we would revise annual fees, as appropriate, for all licensees.

We also propose that the annual fees would increase for some licenses, such as for most material users, fuel facilities and transportation, and would decrease for operating nuclear reactors, research and test reactors, spent fuel storage facilities and most uranium recovery licenses.

We continue efforts to keep our fees as low as possible by ensuring our programs are conducted efficiently and effectively, and we request from Congress only the resources necessary to perform our mission of protecting people and the environment

If you are interested in submitting comments visit www.regulations.gov and use Docket ID NRC-2011-0207. Go to: NRC Plans, Budget and Performance for more information.

Renu Suri
Fee Policy Analyst
Office of the Chief Financial Officer

Eager “IT Shadow Day” Students Indicate a Promising Tomorrow

Senior IT Project Managers Roya Noory (seated center) and Carl Konzman (standing) work with three of the high school students.

Staff members from the NRC’s Office of New Reactors (NRO) and other agency employees got a first hand and up-close look at the future during the recently held IT Shadow Day. What they happily learned is that if the participating students are any indication the future of information technology is bright.

Twenty-five students from Gaithersburg High School’s Academy of Information Technology and its Academy of Finance participated in the fifth annual event at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md. Among the senior agency officials who spoke to and interacted with the students were Deputy Executive Director for Corporate Management Darren Ash, Chief Financial Officer Jim Dyer and Office of Information Services Director Tom Boyce.

After arriving at NRC headquarters via the Metro and downing a quick breakfast, the eager and receptive young minds “shadowed” various agency IT (and other) staff members who volunteered to share with them exactly what their jobs entail on a daily basis. The students also toured the agency’s Operations Center, Data Center and Video Conferencing Center.

Following welcoming remarks and a brief overview of the office mission and responsibilities, three of the students — Rena Cando, Jimmy Lutz and David Hann — shadowed NRO IT professionals Beverly Holmes, Roya Noory, Luc Phuong and Carl Konzman. The trio learned about current office initiatives in web site development, programming, design methodology, development style, project management and the growing relationship between communications and information technology.

Ms. Holmes observed that sharing her on-the-job experiences with the students proved uplifting.

“We should embrace the time we have with youth like those who participated in IT Shadow Day,” she said. “It fosters the promise of new ideas and the development of future technologies that I cannot even begin to imagine.”

The other NRO participants voiced similar thoughts, encouraged by the youthful energy level and intellectual curiousity of the students.

“It’s great to see that high schools now support a broader awareness of information technology by providing students with the opportunity to experience IT as applied beyond what they may believe it is about,“ said Ms. Noory.

The students were equally as ethusiastic and impressed.

Rena Cando, a senior who is headed to Penn State University next fall, summarized her NRO shadowing experience as “fun” and “informational.”

Fellow student David Hann, an 11th grader, said that spending time with members of NRO’s staff made it clear there is much more to the IT profession than “a bunch of people behind computers.” Hann said he hopes to secure an internship at the NRC in the not-too-distant future.

Bryan Champion, the event’s Master of Ceremony, concluded that IT Shadow Day serves as “a win-win because members of the NRC staff have not only supported the growth of future IT professionals, but the agency also has the potential of raising and shaping its IT work force for the future.”

Like I said, the future is bright.

Robert Jasinski
Senior Communications Specialist
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