U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

Category Archives: General

Intense Exercises Help Keep Nuclear Plants Secure

Melissa Ralph
Technical Advisor
Division of Security Operations

Demonstrating an intense focus, stealth, and military-style tactics, a team moves in concert to destroy a specific target. The team plans and executes each action with deliberate purpose. Who are they? What are they after? This could easily be mistaken for any civilian war-game.

But this is no game. This is an important part of the inspection program for one of the nation’s most critical assets — commercial nuclear power plants.

forceonforceBWThese mock attacks, called force-on-force exercises, are one time when the so-called “bad guys” are part of the plan. Known as the national “Composite Adversary Force,” or CAF, they are usually security professionals from other nuclear plants across the country. CAF members complete a rigorous selection process and training to prepare them for this two-year assignment.

At each site, the CAF attempts to gain access to and destroy its target — equipment that if compromised could impact the safety of the plant and the surrounding community. The “attackers” normally use various routes, methods of entry and tactics to challenge the ability of the plant’s security force to protect the facility. Security forces must be able to defend the site against a standard set of characteristics called the “design basis threat,” or DBT. Specific details of the DBT are not disclosed, for obvious reasons, but the DBT’s scope is laid out in the NRC’s regulations.

The simulated attacks occur over two days and nights, but the full inspection lasts two weeks.  During the first week, NRC inspectors have unrestricted access to the site. The inspectors take multiple tours and review the site’s protective strategy and security plan. The inspection team works with the CAF to develop mission plans for a second trip to the site, called the exercise week.

During the exercise week, the CAF performs two mock assaults on the site. The full inspection concludes with a management critique after the last exercise. Senior management at the site participate in these critiques to use lessons from the exercises to help improve the overall security program. Any vulnerabilities identified are addressed before the NRC inspectors leave.

The NRC has been conducting force-on-force exercises since 1991, but they were significantly modified after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The NRC conducts a force-on-force inspection at each nuclear power plant every three years. The NRC inspection teams are drawn from a diverse group. A core team of NRC headquarters staff is augmented by NRC regional and resident inspectors and active duty military members from the U.S. Special Operations Command.

You may not have heard much about the specific details or results of the force-on-force program due to its security-sensitive nature. Simply put, the NRC doesn’t want the real bad guys to obtain information about the security strategies and plans at the plants.

The force-on-force inspection is part of the baseline inspection process, which the NRC uses to provide an overall assessment of safety and security for each plant. While the specific details of security inspection findings or violations are not made public, overall site performance under the reactor oversight process is made available through the NRC’s website.

The NRC will continue to explore ways to enhance the force-on-force program and will announce future meetings on possible enhancements as they occur. More information on force-on-force inspections is available in the NRC’s backgrounder. General information on nuclear power plant security requirements is also on the NRC’s website.

REFRESH — Astounding and (Perhaps) Little Known Facts about the NRC and Radioactive Materials

Brenda Akstulewicz
Regulatory Information Conference Assistant

refresh leafNuclear and radiation-related trivia is anything but trivial. It can be unexpectedly interesting – and you may find some of it surprising. This is a REFRESH of some little known “factoids” compiled from folks throughout the NRC.

* In the 1930s, a failed experiment by a Swiss physicist for detecting gas using a radioactive source led to the discovery of smoke detectors when the scientist lit a cigarette and the detector registered a reaction. The NRC approved 70 different smoke detector designs in 2012.

* It is estimated if only one NRC technical reviewer did each design certification application review, it would take 32 years to complete the review.

astronaut2* Some lightning rods contain Radium-226 to make them more effective.

* The NRC’s first Chairman, Bill Anders, was an astronaut on Apollo 8’s mission to the moon.

* NRC Inspectors from Region IV get a lot of frequent flier miles. They review activities in remote locations such as Guam, Saipan and the northern reaches of Alaska, among other locations.

* The NRC was the first federal agency to give the public electronic access to all of its public documents through the groundbreaking system known as ADAMS (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System).

* The final safety evaluation report for the ESBWR design certification document contains about 3,800 pages.

vet* The fastest growing use of nuclear materials in medicine is for diagnostic and cancer treatment procedures in veterinary medicine.

* The indicator lights in early appliances ─ such as clothes washers and dryers, coffeemakers, and stereos ─ used Krypton–85, a radioactive isotope.

* The NRC performs classified reviews of new Naval Reactor submarine and aircraft carrier reactor plants and provides advice to the Navy on the designs. This practice was initiated by President Kennedy in the 1960s.

* Three women have held the title of Chairman — Allison Macfarlane, Shirley Jackson and Greta Dicus.

* In 1992 Hurricane Andrew struck the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Southern Florida, which prompted the NRC and FEMA to enter into a “Memorandum of Understanding” regarding emergency preparedness.

checklist* NRC’s longest serving commissioner was Commissioner Edward McGaffigan. He served 11 years (from 1996-2007) after appointments twice by President Clinton and once by President Bush. He died while still serving on the Commission.

* On average, NRC expends 6,160 hours of inspection effort at each operating reactor site each year.

This post originally ran in Summer 2013.

A Road Trip through the NRC Website

Ivonne Couret
Public Affairs Officer

homepageIt’s summer, so you’re probably going on a road trip somewhere. While perhaps not as interesting as a jaunt to Yosemite or Niagara Falls, a “road trip” through the NRC website won’t involve a lot of bickering in the back seat or repeated stops at gas station rest rooms. So here we go.

First stop is the subject area tabs — NUCLEAR REACTORS, NUCLEAR MATERIALS, RADIOACTIVE WASTE, NUCLEAR SECURITY and SAFEGUARDS, PUBLIC MEETINGS and INVOLVEMENT, NRC LIBRARY, and ABOUT NRC. This is where you will find the links to web pages for more information on NRC programs and current regulatory activities. These subject area tabs aim to be a source of general information organized by topic in an accessible fashion.

Second stop is the FACILITY LOCATOR. This is where you can find facilities near you by NRC region, or state, including operating power reactors, nuclear material facilities, research and test reactor sites, major nuclear fuel facilities licensed by the NRC, as well as all kinds of sites undergoing decommissioning. These locations are listed by state or by site name.

Third stop is the link to ADAMS, the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System, the official recordkeeping system. This is where you can access our online libraries or collections of publicly available documents. Here you can also find agency correspondence to Congress or plant reports.

Fourth stop is the PUBLIC MEETING CALENDAR. This page allows you to search both currently scheduled meetings and previously held meetings dating back to October 1, 2003.For example, if you want to see a list of meetings for the next month in your state, enter a start date and an end date and select your state from the drop down list. You can also find copies of past presentations and agendas.

Fifth stop is the COMMISSION MEETING WEBCASTS. This page allows you to view live or archived Commission meeting webcasts, or other NRC meeting webcasts hosted on the NRC webcast portal. So here you can watch meetings and participate virtually in the regulatory process from the convenience of your computer.

The final stop is a special overlooked spot –the WHAT’S NEW section. Here you can find direct links to recent regulatory documents posted on our website. You can find them listed by the date added to the site in chronological order and as well as past month and year, such as the April 24, 2015, posting of  NUREG/BR-0523 Mitigating Strategies: Safely Responding to Extreme Events.

There is still so much more to discover. Try using the upgraded search tool to find other areas. And we’re updating the Student Corner section soon, so stay tuned. We hope you, enjoy both your real summer road trip and your trip through the NRC website Thanks for visiting!

 

Celebrating a Facebook Milestone

Stephanie West
Public Affairs Specialist for Social Media

Facebook1Now we can start measuring the life of our official NRC Facebook page in years. One year ago we published our very first Facebook post. In that welcome message we said we were excited about using our new platform to enhance interaction with the public. We think we’ve had some success in this area. Our posts are certainly viewed and shared by the Facebook community, our links are clicked, and some of our posts prompt comments.

So far, about 1,900 people have liked our page, and more than 17,000 have engaged with our content in some way.

Though some ideas for content have been less popular than others, we’re enjoying the process of learning what our audience finds most interesting. For example, we’ve discovered that people are most engaged with our Facebook posts that highlight and link back to this blog. That’s important to us because we see that our strategy to cross-pollinate our social media platforms is effective. It broadens our audience. After all, we want to reach as many people as possible.

Also well-received are posts that leverage the popularity of social media trends like Throwback Thursday and those that shine a spotlight on the people who make up our organization. We’re learning that our audience is best served by a mix of content that covers both the serious and complex nature of our mission, and which allows us to be a little more lighthearted. Check out the post we published on July 15 recognizing National Ice Cream Month, and how the NRC has a hand in making this delicious treat.

We’ve been using social media for several years now, but we are just getting our feet wet with social networking. So we’ll keep plugging away trying to refine our communications on Facebook and our other platforms to best inform, engage and expand our community.

 

Enhancing NRC Public Meetings

Lance Rakovan
Senior Communications Specialist

pubmeetingIPThe NRC holds a lot of public meetings – more than 1,000 a year. Sometimes we seem to hit the mark with stakeholders. Sometimes not so much. In any event, we are always looking to make our meetings better. I recently co-chaired a group of NRC staff members who were tasked with providing the agency’s Executive Director for Operations (EDO) with a list of recommendations to make our public meetings better.

We took a comprehensive look at the NRC’s public meeting policies, processes, and guidance, including their implementation, and made recommendations to improve those aspects of our work. The group provided its report to the EDO earlier this year (ML15029A456).

Who was part of the group? The group’s members included representatives of the two offices that conduct by far the most NRC public meetings (the offices of Nuclear Reactor Regulation and New Reactors); members from all four NRC regions, including a public affairs officer; and many others. The task group members brought to the table extensive public meeting experience.

The task group considered additional public input provided through sources such as:

  • Years’ worth of feedback received through the NRC’s Public Meeting Feedback Form;
  • The results of extensive public outreach- and meeting-related interviews and surveys involving the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station; and
  • Input received during previous public meetings addressing public involvement.

This information was instrumental in the task group’s work and informed decisions the group made.

Now that the report is done, what are the next steps? NRC staff members are currently creating and revising our policies and guidance, including our policy statement on public meetings. Our intent is to engage the public by sharing draft products for comment and holding a public meeting once some of the improvements recommended by the task group have been made.

We hope that you will participate in those activities and continue to provide your input through the Public Meeting Feedback Form (fill out a hard copy at a meeting or provide your input electronically by clicking on “meeting feedback form” for meetings on the public meeting schedule) as well as through discussions with NRC staff. Our goal is to provide the public with useful information on our activities and to conduct business in an open manner, while at the same time ensuring that we can carry out our mission.

As the agency takes action on the recommendations, we’ll update you via the blog on proposed improvements, progress we’re making, and how the public can be involved with initiatives.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,716 other followers

%d bloggers like this: