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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.

 

Lining Up New Protections with New Flood Info

Lauren K. Gibson
Project Manager
Japan Lessons Learned Division

Walkdowns (3)The NRC is moving forward on connecting two important lessons we learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan: protecting key safety functions and reevaluating flood hazards. The agency’s ongoing work would require U.S. nuclear power plants to ensure their protection strategies account for updated flood levels.

The Commission has approved the staff’s plan for completing the reevaluated flooding hazards review. The staff’s plan also covers how U.S. plants must account for the new hazards in their mitigation strategies for beyond-design-basis events. The plan requires U.S. plants to determine which flood hazard data could affect their strategies. We believe this approach is the quickest way to provide the most significant flood protection improvements.

The NRC assesses plants’ re-evaluated flood hazards to see whether the re-evaluated hazards were properly calculated. Plants need these assessments to evaluate their strategies against the re-evaluated hazard. We’re still reviewing some plants’ work; we’re issuing interim letters so those plants know how to follow the rest of the staff’s plan.

The plants examine whether their strategies work under the new hazard conditions and make any appropriate adjustments. For example, a strategy might require a pump in a location submerged by the new possible flood level. The plant would then consider options such as relocating the pump. These assessments and adjustments would be substantially complete by 2016.

The second part of completing the flooding hazard work involves either a focused evaluation or a broader integrated assessment of the plant’s protection capabilities. The specific work depends on:

  1. Which hazards, if any, cause flood levels higher than the plant’s original level.
  2. Whether the plant’s flood protections have available physical margin. (For example, if the new flood hazard level is six feet and a plant’s existing wall is seven feet tall, the wall has available physical margin to handle the new flood level.)
  3. Whether the higher flooding levels disable the plant’s ability to cool the reactor core or spent fuel pool, or protect containment.

If the local intense precipitation hazard is the only cause of a higher level, then the plant performs a focused evaluation. If other flooding hazards are involved, but the plant has available physical margin and can maintain safety functions, then the plant only needs a focused evaluation. The focused evaluation would identify any physical or procedure changes needed to address the new flood level. We would review and inspect these changes to ensure they resolve the issue.

The remaining plants would perform an integrated assessment, looking at all flooding hazards and identifying any changes needed to protect the plant from the new hazard. We’ll review these assessments and decide if voluntary plant actions would be effective or if the NRC must order plant changes.

You can find out more information about Recommendation 2.1—Flooding on the Japan Lessons Learned portion of the NRC website.

UPDATE: Reducing Proliferation Risks AND Treating the Sick

Steve Lynch
Project Manager
Research and Test Reactor Licensing Branch

The United States does not produce a medical isotope used domestically in millions of diagnostic procedures each year. We’re talking about technicium-99m, or Tc‑99m — which has been called the world’s most important medical isotope.

Tc-99m is created from another radioisotope, molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which, in some cases, is produced  using highly enriched uranium. A supply shortage that delayed patient treatments several years ago, coupled with the desire to reduce proliferation risks, prompted the world community to find better ways of securing the future supply of this isotope.

In 2012, Congress passed the American Medical Isotope Production Act to support private U.S. efforts to develop non-HEU methods for medical isotope production and begin phasing out the export of HEU. The National Nuclear Security Administration has been promoting domestic Mo‑99 production using different technologies through formal cooperative agreements with commercial partners.

These partners and several other companies have said they are interested in producing Mo‑99 in the U.S. They have proposed using several different technologies, ranging from non-power reactors to accelerator-driven, subcritical solution tanks. To support the transition to new technologies, the NRC is prepared to receive and review applications for construction permits, operating licenses, and materials licenses for new facilities, as well as license amendments for existing non-power reactors.

In fact, we are now reviewing two construction permit applications and a license amendment request. We licensed a small-scale technology demonstration project earlier this year.

Companies, facilities, and technicians involved in producing and administering Tc-99m to patients may also need to be licensed by either the NRC or an Agreement State. (There are 37 Agreement States, which have formal agreements with the NRC allowing them to regulate certain nuclear materials, including medical isotopes.)

For more information on the role of the NRC and other agencies in regulating the use and production of medical isotopes and other nuclear materials, visit the NRC webpage.

Kara Mattioli also contributed to this post.

This is an update to the original blog post, which originally ran in October 2013

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