Last January, the Byron Station, Unit 2, automatically shut down its nuclear reactor because of an electrical power problem. But the way the power was lost – only one phase of three-phase alternating current was lost – in addition to a design problem caused the diesel-driven back-up generators to not start up automatically.
While operators were able to get the back-up generators started manually and the plant was shut down safely, this was clearly a problem the NRC has to look into. Since power can be lost to a plant for any number of reasons – including a thunderstorm or other natural events – back-up power is very important to keep vital safety systems working at the plants.
The NRC quickly issued an “information notice” to let other nuclear power plant operators know about the problem. The NRC then, some months later, followed up with a bulletin to all licensees. This bulletin required all 104 reactors and the four licensees that had submitted new reactor designs to provide the NRC with information about their electrical protection systems. The NRC staff will use the information provided by the licensees to determine if further regulatory action is needed.
A bulletin and an information notice are two types of NRC “generic communications.” Along with generic letters and regulatory issue summaries, generic communications provide a method to communicate, primarily with licensees, about issues that might affect all of them, even if the original event – as in this case – is specific to just one plant.
The term “generic” might seem odd in this context – most people probably think of generic in terms of medicine or consumer products. But for the NRC, the term refers to important ways we communicate generally about issues that might affect more than one site.
NRC generic communications can be viewed on the NRC’s public website.Andrea Russell Project Manager Generic Communications and Power Uprate Branch