The NRC welcomes comments on the topics we’re blogging about. But we realize there are other topics you might want to talk about. This post serves as the Open Forum section of the NRC Blog. You may post comments here on any topic relevant to the role and mission of the NRC. Comments here are still moderated and must adhere to the Comment Guidelines. If we determine a comment on another post is more appropriate here, we’ll move it over. This post will stay open for comments and not be subject to the 30-day comment period of other posts. You can always find this post by clicking on the Open Forum category on the side bar.Holly Harrington NRC Blog Moderator
Chemistry fans often refer to Oct. 23 as “Mole Day,” since the numbers 10 and 23 are part of a basic constant in chemistry, the mole. This unit describes how many atoms exist in a given sample of any substance, so scientists use moles to simplify lots of calculations. For example, when an average nuclear reactor first starts up its core has about 120,000 kilograms of uranium in its fuel. A mole of uranium weighs about 238 grams, so a brand-new core has about 504,000 moles of uranium. A plant scientist or NRC specialist would base some core calculations on a more exact definition of moles in the core.
Regulatory Information Conference Assistant
Nuclear 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
Mathematically, of course, the answer is 0.596 – a tiny amount – but when referring to two different parts of NRC regulations, there’s a big difference. 10 CFR Part 2.802 and 10 CFR Part 2.206 both describe petition processes. However, 2.802 petitions are requests from the public for a new rule (regulation) while 2.206 petitions are related to enforcement actions.
My area, the Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs (FSME), usually gets two to four 2.802 rulemaking petitions a year about medical or general license issues. However, petitions are also addressed in other offices, including the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. The basic steps for submitting petitions for rulemaking to the NRC are found in 10 CFR 2.802, with specific details on what to include in the petition documented in paragraph (c).
For information on the process for submitting a petition for rulemaking to the NRC, please visit this page, which also has a link to the NRC’s petition for rulemaking dockets.
The 2.206 process allows anyone to ask the NRC to take enforcement action against NRC licensees. Depending on the results of its evaluation, NRC could modify, suspend, or revoke an NRC-issued license or take other enforcement action to fix a problem. Additional information on how to submit a petition under 10 CFR 2.206, how the agency processes the request, and status information on 2.206 petitions we’ve received can be found at here.
There have been occasions where a petitioner has invoked the term “2.206” when the request was really a petition for rulemaking under 2.802. Unfortunately, this situation often delays the petition while staff members review the request and get it put into the right process.
The NRC’s petition process provides the public with a voice in how we regulate our licensees. Hopefully, this post clarifies which process is appropriate for a given situation and highlights the difference between the two numbers beyond 0.596!
“Refresh” is a new initiative where we revisit some earlier posts. This originally ran in June 2011.
As you know, the NRC was able to continue to keep its doors open a bit longer than the rest of the federal government. But yesterday, we, too, shut down due to the lapse in appropriations. Furlough notices were sent to all employees. At this time, only about 300 of our 3900 staff members are reporting to duty. That number includes the resident inspectors, who continue to do their job at the nuclear power plants in your communities.
It’s important to reiterate that while we continue to uphold our fundamental safety and security mission – and can bring workers back quickly in an emergency – there is important long-term work that just isn’t getting done.
All public meetings are suspended while the NRC is shutdown. Those already postponed or cancelled include both Commission meetings scheduled for next week (Oct. 16 and Oct. 18). Also postponed are the Waste Confidence meetings originally scheduled for the weeks of Oct. 14th and Oct. 21st. No decision has yet been made about other Waste Confidence meetings. As soon as we are back to work, we’ll begin planning for when the postponed meetings will be held.
Also postponed is the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing originally scheduled to begin Oct. 16, in Houston, and the public meeting on performance at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant scheduled for Oct. 16 in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
In addition, we’ve had to temporarily suspend action on all pending licensing or enforcement matters before the licensing boards or Commission, with the exception of those related to the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding (as that work is funded by the Nuclear Waste Fund, not the general agency appropriation.) Those litigants have all been notified.
During the shutdown, we will continue to receive safety and security concerns via the web page and the hotlines listed here. The Inspector General’s Office also continues to function.
Unfortunately the NRC’s public website is not being updating during the shutdown. It is still accessible, though. Some key documents related to the shutdown include:
• the NRC’s shutdown plan, approved by the Office of Management and Budget;
• press releases on postponed meetings: and
• a Regulatory Information Summary on our shutdown operations.
While no one knows how long the shutdown will last, the NRC staff is already making plans for a smooth, quick “restart” of the agency. While we know there will be some lag time between bringing all employees back and becoming fully functioning again, we want that lag to be as short as possible. We hope we are all back at work soon.
This week, the NRC is sending letters to dozens of state and local government officials in California, as well as environmental groups and business leaders, inviting them to participate in small group discussions with NRC officials. The discussions will focus on the processes and activities we’re using to evaluate a possible restart decision on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Unit 2.
The NRC is offering these small group meetings as opportunities for productive discussions on how the NRC fulfills its regulatory mandate for protecting public safety and the environment. Those invited to participate are recognized as community leaders, who could then share the information with their constituency and the public at large.
These small group discussions will focus on process issues concerning the NRC’s review, rather than specific areas of the staff’s technical analysis. They do not replace the larger public meeting the staff will conduct. That meeting will occur after Southern California Edison has submitted, and the NRC staff has completed our inspection and technical evaluation of, SCE’s response to the NRC’s Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL).
This new effort will consist of multiple small group gatherings in California with state elected officials, local elected officials, environmental non-governmental organizations, and economic development, energy, and local union/building and trade representatives.
The discussion will include 15-20 participants with three to four NRC representatives and a facilitator. The NRC’s objective is to maintain the small group size to promote frank, two-way discussions and dialogue.
The discussions will be closed to public observation. The information discussed as part of this effort will be placed on the NRC SONGS special webpage prior to the discussions. No decisions about restart will be announced at these gatherings.
Note: Here are the titles and organizations of the folks invited to participate:
Local elected officials
The mayors of: Los Angeles, Mission Viejo, Santa Ana, Vista, Encinitas, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Solana Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods, Del Mar, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, San Diego, Redondo Beach, Laguna Hills, Industry, West Hollywood, Escondido, La Habra, Covina, and Hesperia.
San Diego Unified School District, Board President
California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and California Assembly
Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations
Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE), Peace Resource Center of San Diego, Citizens’ Oversight, Sierra Club, San Clemente Green, San Onofre Safety, Democratic Party of San Diego, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, Friends of the Earth, Committee to Bridge the Gap, DAB Safety Team, Earth Ocean Society, and Women’s Energy Matters
Economic Development, Energy and Local Unions
Business Manager UWUA, Local 246, SD Building & Construction Trades Council, IBEW Local 47, Orange County Taxpayers Association, Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Cypress College, Chapman University, Los Kitos Farm, Muni-Fed Energy, Southeast Community Development Corporation, California Small Business Association, Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, and Adams Real
Plus — four other individuals with unknown organizational ties
It’s easy to imagine the sense of distress that must have washed over a portable nuclear gauge user one recent morning when he realized the device he had stowed in the back of his truck was missing. The gauge had apparently tumbled from his vehicle as he drove along a road near Martinsburg, W.Va.
Despite the gauge user’s prompt retracing of his steps, the device was nowhere to be found and, as of today, has not yet been retrieved.
While the search goes on, some perspective is in order regarding the use of such gauges, which contain sealed sources of radioactive materials and are designed to take measurements of soil density at construction and other work sites. The reality is the loss of these portable gauges is an infrequent occurrence and that is due, in large part, to the requirements developed over time to avoid that from happening.
Indeed, NRC and Agreement State regulations clearly spell out the precautions gauge operators must take when the devices are not in use. (Agreement States are those that have signed an agreement with the NRC to regulate nuclear materials used within their borders for which the NRC would otherwise be responsible.)
For one thing, there is a security requirement that a minimum of two independent physical controls must be utilized to prevent unauthorized removal of a gauge when it is not under direct control and surveillance of company personnel. For another, there must be constant surveillance of a gauge when it is in an unrestricted area.
When violations of these requirements occur in non-Agreement States, the NRC will consider whether enforcement action is warranted. Agreement States will do the same in their jurisdictions.
What’s more, the NRC and Agreement States conduct typically unannounced periodic inspections of gauge owners to discern whether security and other requirements are being properly followed.
Provided the sealed source remains inside the shielded gauge, it should not pose a threat to the person or persons who have it in their possession. Nevertheless, the device needs to be back in the hands of personnel qualified to handle such material as soon as possible.
In a post-9/11 world, the NRC takes very seriously the security of radioactive materials, from nuclear fuel used in power reactors to small amounts of radioactive material housed in portable gauges transported on pick-up trucks.
05/17/2013 – Updated: There is now a happy post-script to the case of portable nuclear gauge that went missing earlier this month in West Virginia.
On May 3, a Pennsylvania firm doing work in the Mountain State reported to the NRC that a gauge had fallen off one of its trucks and could not be located. The NRC issued a press release on May 6 advising the public to be on the lookout for the device. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) put out its own release regarding the missing gauge on May 14, based on the fact that its owner, Valley Quarries, is headquartered in Chambersburg, Pa., and is licensed by the state.
A break occurred on May 15 when a Maryland resident contacted the DEP to say he had spotted the gauge along a roadside near Martinsburg, W.Va., and placed it in his trunk after deciding it must be something important. It apparently remained there until being handed over to the DEP and, in turn, to Valley Quarries.
The good news is that a preliminary evaluation has found the gauge was apparently not damaged. A service provider for Valley Quarries will confirm that is the case. n the meantime, the NRC’s inspection of the loss of the gauge is still in progress. As part of that review, the NRC and DEP teamed up for an inspection at the company’s headquarters late last week to evaluate safety and security protocols used by the firm with respect to its portable nuclear gauges.
When the NRC’s inspection is completed, the results will be made available to the public.