[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 173 (Thursday, September 6, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 54839-54843]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-21541]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

10 CFR Part 50

[NRC-2012-0204]


Clarification of Submission of Requests for Relief or 
Alternatives From the Regulatory Requirements Pertaining to Codes and 
Standards

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Draft regulatory issue summary; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) 
is seeking public comment on a draft regulatory issue summary (RIS) 
that provides information on requests for alternatives to and relief 
from the regulatory requirements pertaining to Codes and Standards. The 
draft RIS also provides clarification when relief is requested by 
licensees and applicants where American Society of Mechanical Engineers 
Code requirements are determined impractical, and when proposed 
alternatives to the regulations are submitted to the NRC.

DATES: Submit comments by October 22, 2012. Comments received after 
this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC 
is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before 
this date.

ADDRESSES: You may access information and comment submissions related 
to this document, which the NRC possesses and is publicly available, by 
searching on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket ID NRC-2012-0204.
    You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web Site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2012-0204. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-492-
3668; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov.
     Mail comments to: Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules, 
Announcements, and Directives Branch (RADB), Office of Administration, 
Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, 
DC 20555-0001.
     Fax comments to: RADB at 301-492-3446.
    For additional direction on accessing information and submitting 
comments, see ``Accessing Information and Submitting Comments'' in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas Alexion, Senior Project 
Manager, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-1326, email: 
Thomas.Alexion@nrc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Accessing Information and Submitting Comments

A. Accessing Information

    Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2012-0204 when contacting the NRC 
about the availability of information regarding this document. You may 
access information related to this document, which the NRC possesses 
and is publicly available, by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web Site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2012-0204.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may access publicly available documents online in the NRC 
Library at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the 
search, select ``ADAMS Public Documents'' and then select ``Begin Web-
based ADAMS Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's 
Public Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-
4737, or by email to pdr.resource@nrc.gov. The draft RIS 
``Clarification of Submission of Requests for Relief or Alternatives 
Under 10 CFR 50.55a,'' is available electronically under ADAMS 
Accession No. ML111150172.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

B. Submitting Comments

    Please include Docket ID NRC-2012-0204 in the subject line of your 
comment submission, in order to ensure that the NRC is able to make 
your comment submission available to the public in this docket.
    The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact 
information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in your 
comment submission.

[[Page 54840]]

The NRC will post all comment submissions at http://www.regulations.gov 
as well as enter the comment submissions into ADAMS. The NRC does not 
routinely edit comment submissions to remove identifying or contact 
information.
    If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons 
for submission to the NRC, then you should inform those persons not to 
include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be 
publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should 
state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove such information before making the comment submissions available 
to the public or entering the comment submissions into ADAMS.

II. Discussion

Addressees

    All holders of a construction permit and an operating license for a 
nuclear power reactor under part 50 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (10 CFR), ``Domestic Licensing of Production and 
Utilization Facilities,'' except those who have permanently ceased 
operations and have certified that fuel has been permanently removed 
from the reactor vessel.
    All holders of and applicants for a combined license (COL), 
standard design certification, standard design approval, or 
manufacturing license under 10 CFR Part 52, ``Licenses, Certifications, 
and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants.''

Intent

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) is 
issuing this regulatory issue summary (RIS) to provide information on 
requests for alternatives to and relief from the requirements of 10 CFR 
50.55a, ``Codes and Standards,'' which incorporates by reference the 
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Boiler and Pressure Vessel 
Code (ASME BPV Code) and Code for Operation and Maintenance of Nuclear 
Power Plants (OM Code) for ASME Code Class 1, 2, and 3 components,\1\ 
and Class MC and CC pressure-retaining components and their integral 
attachments. Specifically, this RIS provides clarification when relief 
is requested by licensees and applicants pursuant to 10 CFR 
50.55a(f)(5)(iii) and 10 CFR 50.55a(g)(5)(iii) where ASME Code 
requirements are determined impractical, and when proposed alternatives 
to the regulations in 10 CFR 50.55a are submitted to the NRC under 10 
CFR 50.55a(a)(3)(i) or 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3)(ii).
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    \1\ Incoming inservice inspection requirements of Class MC 
components in accordance with ASME Section XI, Subsection IWE and 
Class CC components in accordance with Subsection IWL.
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    This RIS requires no action or written response on the part of an 
addressee.

Background Information

    The NRC requirements for the application and use of industry codes 
and standards applicable to nuclear power plants are set forth in 10 
CFR 50.55a, Codes and Standards. Paragraph (b) of 10 CFR 50.55a lists 
the NRC-approved ASME BPV Codes and Addenda, OM Codes, and ASME Code 
Cases that are approved or mandated for use (together with applicable 
NRC-imposed conditions on their use). Paragraphs (c) through (g) set 
forth the specific regulatory requirements mandating or approving the 
application and use of ASME BPV and OM Codes.
    Section 50.55a also provides two separate regulatory processes for 
applicants or licensees to request NRC approval to depart from the 
requirements of these codes and standards. The general process for 
seeking NRC approval for use of an alternative to one or more 
provisions of a code or standard listed in 10 CFR 50.55a (which 
includes Codes other than the various ASME Codes and Code Cases) is set 
forth in 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3). The specific process for NRC grants of 
relief from inservice testing (IST) and inservice inspection (ISI) 
requirements because of impracticality is set forth in 10 CFR 
50.55a(f)(5)(iii) and (g)(5)(iii), respectively. The term, ``relief 
request,'' is commonly misused to address the request for NRC approval 
of alternatives under 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3), as opposed to the correct 
usage with respect to claims of IST and ISI impracticality.
    For new reactors licensed under 10 CFR Part 52, when a COL holder 
finds during plant construction that compliance with ASME Code, Section 
III, or Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 
Standard 603 requirements would result in hardship or unusual 
difficulty, or when they would like to use a different approach for 
meeting construction \2\ requirements of the ASME BPV Code, Section 
III, or the IEEE Standard 603, it must submit a proposed alternative to 
(1) the construction requirements of Section III of the ASME BPV Code 
for ASME Code Class 1, 2 and 3 components, or (2) the requirements of 
IEEE Standard 603 for protection and safety systems for authorization 
by the NRC in accordance with 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3)(i) or 10 CFR 
50.55a(a)(3)(ii). The alternative is required to be submitted before 
its implementation. The timing for submission of alternatives and 
relief requests are discussed later in this RIS.
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    \2\ The term ``construction'' is an all-inclusive term 
comprising materials, design, fabrication, examination, testing, 
inspection, and certification, as defined in the ASME BPV Code, 
Section III, Article NCA-9000.
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    Generally, relief and alternative requests do not involve license 
amendments. Instead, the NRC staff issues a letter with a safety 
evaluation on the licensee's or applicant's request to authorize the 
alternative to, or grant relief from, an ASME BPV Code (Section III or 
XI) or OM Code requirement. However, there are times when relief 
requests or alternatives might involve changes to plant technical 
specifications or changes to Tier 2* information associated with a 
design certification (note that Tier 2* information is defined in 10 
CFR Part 52, Appendices A through D). In these cases, a license 
amendment would also be needed. In addition, the NRC may authorize an 
alternative to an ASME Code design requirement in the context of an 
application to certify a standard design.

Summary of Issue

    The NRC staff is issuing this RIS to address the following specific 
issues associated with submittals under 10 CFR 50.55a:
     The content of IST-related or ISI-related requests for 
relief or alternatives under 10 CFR 50.55a
     The timing of alternatives submitted in accordance with 10 
CFR 50.55a(a)(3)
     The timing of relief requests submitted in accordance with 
10 CFR 50.55a(f)(5) or 10 CFR 50.55a(g)(5)
The Content of IST-Related or ISI-Related Requests for Relief or 
Alternatives Under 10 CFR 50.55a
    Licensees requesting relief from the requirements of 10 CFR 
50.55a(f)(6)(i) and 10 CFR 50.55a(g)(6)(i) due to impracticality must 
demonstrate that ASME Code requirements are impractical within the 
limitations of design, geometry, and materials of construction. In 
addition, the NRC staff may impose alternative requirements and may 
grant the relief only if it determines that granting the relief is 
authorized by law, will not endanger life or property or the common 
defense and security, and is otherwise in the public interest giving 
due consideration to the burden upon the licensee that could result if 
the requirements were imposed on the facility. In doing this,

[[Page 54841]]

the NRC staff assesses the limitations of the examination or testing, 
evaluates the susceptibility to known degradation, mechanisms or 
failure modes, the consequences of a failure at the location where the 
test or examination is impractical, and if any other inspections or 
tests should be implemented to compensate for the impracticality.
    Licensees and applicants proposing alternatives in accordance to 10 
CFR 50.55a(a)(3)(i) or 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3)(ii) must demonstrate that 
(1) the proposed alternatives would provide an acceptable level of 
quality and safety, or (2) compliance with the specified requirements 
would result in hardship or unusual difficulty without a compensating 
increase in the level of quality and safety.
    Many initial requests for alternatives to or relief from IST or ISI 
requirements in the ASME BPV Code and OM Code submitted by licensees 
and applicants have not been supported by adequate descriptive and 
detailed technical information, thus necessitating requests for 
additional information. Based on whether the submittal involves a 
relief or alternative request, detailed information is necessary: (1) 
To document the impracticality of the ASME BPV or OM Code requirements 
because of the limitations of design, geometry, or materials of 
construction of components, and to allow the NRC to make a finding on 
plant safety where an ASME BPV Code or OM Code requirement is 
determined to be impractical; or (2) to determine whether the use of a 
proposed alternative will provide an acceptable level of quality and 
safety or whether compliance with the specified ASME Code requirements 
would result in hardship or unusual difficulty without a compensating 
increase in the level of quality and safety.
    Licensees and applicants should consider the information needed for 
the NRC to make a finding to grant relief or to authorize an 
alternative when preparing the request submittal. For example, relief 
requests submitted with a justification that the requirements are 
``impractical,'' that the component is ``inaccessible,'' or requests 
that use any other categorical basis should provide information to 
permit an evaluation of that relief request.
    The guidance in this section illustrates the extent of the 
information necessary for the NRC to make a proper evaluation and to 
adequately document in a safety evaluation the basis for granting 
relief from or authorizing an alternative to the ASME BPV Code or OM 
Code. Requests for additional information and delays in completing the 
review can be considerably reduced if the initial submittal by the 
licensee or applicant provides this information.
    Each submittal for a relief or alternative request should include 
the following, with adequate information so that it can serve as a 
standalone document:
     Provide the start and end date of the current or past 10-
year IST or ISI interval and the applicable edition or addendum of the 
ASME BPV or OM Codes from which the relief or alternative is requested.
     If the licensee received an approval to update to a later 
edition or addendum of the ASME BPV or OM Codes for the current or past 
10-year IST or ISI interval, provide the date of the NRC safety 
evaluation.
     Provide the ASME BPV or OM Code examination or test 
requirements for the pump(s), valve(s), weld(s), or component(s) for 
which the relief or alternative is requested.
     State the number of items associated with the requested 
relief or alternative.
     Identify the specific ASME BPV Code or OM Code requirement 
that has been determined to be impractical or will be replaced by the 
alternative.
     For relief from or an alternative to the ASME BPV Code ISI 
examination requirements, provide an itemized list of the specific 
pump(s), valve(s), weld(s), or component(s) for which the relief or 
alternative is requested. List the type of valve(s) or pump(s) or the 
ASME BPV Code specification of base metal and weld material in weld 
joints piping, components (e.g., tees, elbows), nozzles, and vessels.
     For relief from or an alternative to the ASME BPV Code ISI 
examination requirements, estimate the percentage of the examination 
coverage required under the ASME BPV Code that has been completed for 
each of the individual existing weld(s) or component(s) associated with 
the relief or alternative.
     Submit information to support the determination that the 
requirement is impractical (i.e., state and explain the basis for 
requesting relief) or the basis for the alternative request. If the 
licensee cannot perform the examination or testing required by the ASME 
BPV or OM Codes because of a limitation or obstruction, describe or 
provide drawings showing the specific limitation or obstruction and the 
achievable examination coverage or testing that can be performed.
     For an alternative request, identify the alternative test 
or nondestructive examination methods and techniques proposed (1) in 
lieu of the requirements of the ASME BPV or OM Codes, or (2) to 
supplement partial ASME OM Code testing or ASME BPV Code examinations 
performed or special processes.
     Discuss the failure consequences of the weld joint(s) or 
component(s) that would not receive the examination specified in the 
ASME BPV Code. Discuss any changes expected in the overall level of 
plant safety if the licensee performs the proposed alternative 
examination in lieu of the examination specified in the ASME BPV Code.
     For an alternative request, provide a basis to demonstrate 
that (1) the proposed alternative would provide an acceptable level of 
quality and safety, or (2) compliance with the specified requirements 
would result in hardship or unusual difficulty without a compensating 
increase in the level of quality and safety.
     State when the proposed alternative testing or examination 
would be implemented and performed.
     State when the request for relief or alternative would 
apply during the inspection or testing period or interval (e.g., that 
it would occur during the refueling outage or the remainder of 
interval, or that the request is to defer an examination or testing to 
some other time).
     State the time period for which the requested relief or 
alternative is needed.
     For a performance-based IST relief or alternative request, 
discuss the aggregate risk associated with proposed relief or 
alternative based on the results of a comprehensive risk analysis. 
Also, discuss how the failure of the affected components would impact 
core damage frequency and large early release frequency.
     Licensees should submit a technical justification or data 
to support the relief or alternative request. Stating without 
substantiation that a change will not affect the level of quality is 
unsatisfactory (e.g., stating that a licensee does not agree with an 
ASME BPV or OM Code requirement is not considered adequate 
justification for granting relief or authorizing an alternative). If 
the licensee is requesting relief or an alternative because of issues 
with component inaccessibility, the request should include a detailed 
description or drawing that depicts the inaccessibility.
    For the NRC staff to make a determination for an alternative for 
hardship regarding radiation exposure during an examination or test, 
the licensee should submit specific information as noted below:

[[Page 54842]]

    Radiation exposures received by test personnel when accomplishing 
the testing or examinations prescribed in the ASME BPV or OM Codes can 
be an important factor in determining whether, or under what 
conditions, a test or examination must be performed. The licensee must 
submit for NRC staff approval such a request for an alternative in the 
manner described above as a case of hardship because of radiation 
exposure.
    Some of the radiation considerations will only be known at the time 
of the examinations or tests. However, based on experience at operating 
facilities, the licensee generally is aware of those areas for which 
relief or an alternative may be necessary. In addition to the general 
requirements given above, the licensee should submit the following 
additional information about the relief or alternative request:
     The total estimated person-rem (roentgen equivalent man) 
exposure involved in the test or examination after as low as reasonably 
achievable aspects are factored into the planning of the job;
     The radiation levels at the test or examination area and 
the time and number of personnel who will be required in this area;
     Flushing or shielding capabilities that might reduce 
radiation levels;
     A discussion of the considerations involved in remote 
inspections; and
     The amount of worker radiation exposure that resulted from 
any previous ISI for the component weld examinations for which the 
relief or alternative is being requested.
The Timing of Alternatives Submitted in Accordance With 10 CFR 
50.55a(a)(3)
    10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3) states:

    Proposed alternatives to the requirements of paragraphs (c), 
(d), (e), (f), (g), and (h) of this section, or portions thereof, 
may be used when authorized by the Director of the Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation or the Director of the Office of New Reactors, as 
appropriate. Any proposed alternatives must be submitted and 
authorized prior to implementation.

    As required by 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3), licensees and applicants must 
submit proposed alternatives to the NRC and obtain NRC authorization 
before implementing the alternatives. For operating nuclear power 
plants, the licensee must submit the alternative request to allow the 
NRC staff ample time (generally less than 1 year) to review and prepare 
a safety evaluation before performing an alternative examination, 
pressure test, or operational readiness test. This is particularly 
important when the licensee plans to use the proposed alternative to 
justify the use of a different examination or test or to demonstrate 
compliance of a particular component with the ASME BPV or OM Code 
requirements in support of facility restart from an otherwise safe-
plant configuration (i.e., shutdown condition). Alternative examination 
techniques or tests may be demonstrated in the field for the 
feasibility of the proposed alternative. NRC authorization of 
alternatives should be factored into the planning schedule as follows: 
(1) for design modifications and physical modifications to the plant, 
prior to reliance on the components associated with the alternative to 
be available to perform their safety function, (2) for tests, prior to 
performing the alternative test, and (3) for examinations, prior to 
crediting the alternative examination to satisfy an ASME Code or 10 CFR 
50.55a requirement.
    For nuclear power plants that have not started initial operation, 
applicants or licensees may request authorization of alternatives 
either during the design stage (e.g., as part of the construction 
permit, design certification or COL application review) or during the 
construction stage (e.g., after the construction permit or COL is 
issued, but prior to plant operation). If an alternative is submitted 
during the construction stage, it must be authorized by the NRC before 
the components associated with the alternative are installed in the 
plant and the ASME Data Report is completed and the Code Symbol Stamp 
(or Certification Mark) is applied to the associated system. Although 
applicants and licensees may submit an alternative for authorization 
after the associated components are fabricated, those applicants and 
licensees will be proceeding at the risk of the NRC subsequently 
denying the requested alternative. Combined license holders should also 
be cautious that the proposed alternative does not adversely impact the 
successful closure of applicable inspections, tests, analyses and 
acceptance criteria (ITAAC) in plants licensed under 10 CFR Part 52. 
Thus, alternatives should be submitted to the NRC for authorization as 
early as practicable to avoid impacting final closure of ITAAC, causing 
potential hardware changes or affecting scheduled plant start-up.
    The submittal of alternatives after they were implemented (e.g., 
within or after 12 months after the end of an inspection interval or 
after the plant starts or resumes operation) will be evaluated by the 
NRC staff in accordance with the applicable provision of 10 CFR 50.55a. 
In addition, they will be forwarded to the appropriate NRC regional 
office for enforcement consideration to determine whether such action 
complied with the requirements of 10 CFR 50.55a(a)(3).
The Timing of Relief Requests Submitted in Accordance With 10 CFR 
50.55a(g)(5) or 10 CFR 50.55a(f)(5)
    Regulations in 10 CFR 50.55a(f)(5)(iii) and (g)(5)(iii) require a 
nuclear power plant licensee to notify the NRC when it has determined 
that conformance with certain ASME Code requirements related to the IST 
and ISI programs, respectively, are impractical for its facility, and 
to submit information to support its determination. The regulations in 
10 CFR 50.55a(f)(5)(iv) and (g)(5)(iv) provide requirements for the 
timeliness of demonstrating the impracticality of ASME Code 
requirements related to the IST and ISI programs, respectively, for 
each new 120-month test/inspection interval. These requirements state 
that licensees must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NRC the 
basis for determining that the test/examination was impractical not 
later than 12 months following the end of that interval in which the 
test/examination was attempted. Sections 50.55a(f)(6)(i) and (g)(6)(i) 
state that the NRC will evaluate determinations that ASME Code 
requirements for IST and ISI programs, respectively, are impractical, 
and may grant relief and impose such alternative requirements as it 
determines is authorized by law and that will not endanger life or 
property or the common defense and security. Such exceptions must be 
deemed to be in the public interest, giving due consideration to the 
burden upon the licensee that could result if the requirements were 
imposed on the facility.
    Therefore, licensees should submit requests for relief due to 
impracticality under 10 CFR 50.55a(g)(5)(iii) for a given 120-month 
inspection interval after the test or exam has been attempted during 
that period and prior to 12 months following the termination of that 
interval. Licensees should not submit requests for relief either before 
or after this time interval. Requests submitted prior to the acceptable 
time frame will not be accepted by the NRC staff for review. Requests 
submitted after the acceptable timeframe will be evaluated by the staff 
for safety issues but will not be approved. These requests will be 
forwarded to the appropriate regional office for potential enforcement 
action.
    Requests for relief under 10 CFR 50.55a(f)(5)(iii) related to IST 
are not subject to the restriction for submittals under 10 CFR 
50.55a(g)(5)(iii). However, the NRC staff recommends that

[[Page 54843]]

licensees and applicants consider the guidance discussed in this RIS 
regarding the timeliness of submittal of alternative requests when 
planning their submittal of IST relief requests.

Backfit Discussion

    This RIS requires no action or written response and is therefore, 
not a backfit under 10 CFR 50.109, ``Backfitting.'' Consequently, the 
staff did not perform a backfit analysis.

Federal Register Notification

    [Discussion to be provided in final RIS.]

Congressional Review Act

    [Discussion to be provided in final RIS.]

Paperwork Reduction Act Statement

    This RIS references information collection requirements that are 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq.). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the existing 
requirements under OMB approval number 3150-0011.

Public Protection Notification

    The NRC may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to 
respond to, an information collection unless the requesting document 
displays a currently valid OMB control number.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 22nd day of August 2012.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
David L. Pelton,
Chief, Generic Communications Branch, Division of Policy and 
Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 2012-21541 Filed 9-5-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P