[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 162 (Monday, August 23, 1999)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 45911-45918]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-21752]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

10 CFR Parts 50 and 70

[Docket No. PRM-50-67]


Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Petition for Rulemaking 
Denial

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Petition for rulemaking; denial.

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SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is denying a petition 
for rulemaking (PRM-50-67) from the Nuclear Information and Resource 
Service (NIRS). The petitioner requested that the NRC amend its 
regulations to require that nuclear facilities ensure the availability 
of backup power sources to power safety systems of reactors and other 
nuclear facilities in the event of a date-sensitive, computer-related 
incident resulting from a Year 2000 (Y2K) issue. The petitioner 
requested that NRC take this action to ensure that reliable backup 
sources of power are available in the event of a Y2K incident. The 
Commission agrees that maintaining reliable emergency power is 
important and has considered the petitioners request as part of its 
review of existing regulatory requirements and licensee actions to 
assure reliable emergency power during the Y2K transition. Based on 
this review, the Commission has determined that existing regulatory 
requirements, actions taken by the licensees to implement a systematic 
and structured Y2K readiness program adequately address Y2K issues, and 
NRC's oversight of the licensees' implementation of these programs 
provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection to public health 
and safety. Because the Commission has concluded that existing programs 
already address the petitioner's concern regarding availability of 
emergency power, the petition is denied.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the petition for rulemaking, the public comments 
received, and NRC's letters to the petitioners are available for public 
inspection or copying in NRC Public Document Room, 2120 L Street, NW 
(Lower Level), Washington, DC, as well as on NRC's rulemaking web site 
at http://ruleforum.llnl.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Matthew Chiramal, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 
20555-0001, telephone 301-415-2845, E-mail address mxc@nrc.gov, or Gary 
W. Purdy, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, US Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, telephone 301-415-
7897, E-mail address gwp1@nrc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    NRC received three related petitions for rulemaking (PRM-50-65, 
PRM-50-66, PRM-50-67), each dated December 10, 1998, submitted by the 
NIRS concerning various aspects of Y2K issues and nuclear safety. This 
petition (PRM-50-67) requested that NRC adopt regulations that would 
require facilities licensed by NRC under 10 CFR parts 50 and 70 to 
provide reliable sources of backup power. The first petition (PRM-50-
65) requested that NRC adopt regulations that would require facilities 
licensed by NRC under 10 CFR parts 30, 40, 50, and 70 to be Y2K 
compliant. The second petition (PRM-50-66) requested that NRC adopt 
regulations that would require facilities licensed by NRC under 10 CFR 
part 50 to develop and implement adequate contingency and emergency 
plans to address potential system failures. Because of the nature of 
these petitions and the date-specific issues they address, the 
petitioner requested that the petitions be addressed on an expedited 
schedule.
    On January 25, 1999, NRC published a notice of receipt of a 
petition for rulemaking in the Federal Register (64 FR 3789). It was 
available on NRC's rulemaking website and in the NRC Public Document 
Room. The notice of receipt of a petition for rulemaking invited 
interested persons to submit comments by February 24, 1999.

The Petition

    The petitioner requested that NRC adopt the following text as a 
rule:

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recognizes that date-sensitive 
computer programs, embedded chips, and other electronic systems that 
perform a major role in distributing, allocating, and ensuring 
electric power throughout the United States may be prone to failure 
beginning on January 1, 2000. Loss of all alternating current 
electricity from both the offsite power grid and onsite emergency 
generators (commonly known as ``station blackout'') long has been 
identified by NRC as among the most prominent contributors to risk 
for atomic reactors.
    (1) For these reasons, NRC requires of part 50 and 70 licensees 
as of December 1, 1999:

[[Page 45912]]

(a) that all emergency diesel generators that provide backup power 
to nuclear licensees must be operational and remain operational; (b) 
that licensees that cannot demonstrate full operational capabilities 
of all emergency diesel generators must close until such time that 
full operational capabilities of emergency diesel generators are 
attained; (c) that all licensees must have a 60-day supply of fuel 
for emergency diesel generators.
    (2) Further, to ensure adequate protection of public health and 
safety, NRC requires that all licensees under these sections must 
provide alternate means of backup power sufficient to assure safety. 
These may include, but are not limited to: solar power panels, wind 
turbines, hydroelectric power, biomass power, and other means of 
generating electricity. These additional backup systems must provide 
electricity directly to the licensee rather than to the broader 
electrical grid.
    (3) Irradiated fuel pools are to be immediately classified as 
Class 1-E; backup power systems must be sufficient to provide 
cooling for such pools. Licensees which cannot demonstrate 
compliance with sections (1) and (2) must cease operations as of 
December 1, 1999, until compliance with these sections is attained.

    The petitioner acknowledged that NRC has recognized the potential 
safety and environmental problems that could result if date-sensitive 
electronic systems fail to operate or provide false information. The 
petitioner asserted that NRC has required its licensees of reactor and 
major fuel cycle facilities to report by July 1, 1999, on their 
programs to ensure compliance with Y2K issues.
    The petitioner discussed the ``availability of electricity to power 
atomic reactor and other nuclear facility safety systems.'' The 
petitioner explained that electricity is required to operate atomic 
reactor safety and cooling systems and that this electricity is 
provided by offsite sources (overall an electrical grid). The 
petitioner commented that NRC has long recognized that the loss of all 
alternating current from both onsite and offsite systems, known 
generally as ``station blackout,'' is the most important contributor to 
risk at most atomic reactors. The petitioner correctly noted that NRC 
has required licensees to have backup sources of onsite emergency 
power, normally multiple emergency diesel generators, capable of 
supplying the electricity necessary to operate essential safety 
systems.
    The petitioner asserted that the emergency diesel generators (EDGs) 
used at atomic reactors have proven unreliable and are often out of 
service. The petitioner claimed that the unprecedented condition posed 
by the Y2K problem, coupled with the demonstrated and ongoing failures 
of EDGs, constitutes reasonable doubt that EDGs can be relied on. 
Therefore, the petitioner believes that NRC should adopt regulations 
that require that licensees have all EDGs operational during the Y2K 
transition, that they have a 60-day supply of fuel as of December 1, 
1999, and that licensed facilities that cannot meet these requirements 
be closed.
    The petitioner discussed the likelihood and the potential 
consequences of a failure of all or a portion of the electric power 
grid in the United States. The petitioner recognized that the failure 
of all or a portion of the electrical grid as a result of Y2K issues is 
well beyond the scope of NRC's authority. However, the petitioner 
stated that the extended failure of all or a portion of the electrical 
grid would place severe stress on the current EDG system of backup 
power supply and that the failure of EDGs at one or more reactor sites 
could result in extended station blackouts and nuclear catastrophes. 
The petitioner asserted that this possibility is well within the range 
of probabilities for which NRC routinely requires action by its 
licensees. The petitioner further asserted that reliance on unreliable 
EDGs is insufficient under these conditions. Therefore, the petitioner 
believes that it is essential that NRC take the regulatory action 
suggested in this petition on an expedited basis.

Public Comments on the Petition

    In response to the petition, NRC received 73 comment letters, which 
included 1 letter signed by 25 citizens of the State of Michigan, 3 
letters from nuclear associated industries, 10 letters from utilities, 
14 letters from private organizations, and 45 letters from private 
citizens.
    Fifty-six letters supported the petition, of which 41 were from 
private citizens, 14 were from private organizations, including 1 from 
the NIRS and 1 signed by 25 individuals. The comments supporting the 
petition addressed the concern that diesel generators are unreliable 
and that a reliable electric power grid is needed.
    In some of the letters supporting the petition, the authors 
included the following additional comments that provide information or 
requested action that was not contained in the petition. These comments 
noted that--
    1. Y2K may increase the possibility of local, regional or 
widespread blackouts. Losing all electric power to the station is 
called station blackout. EDGs, each capable of powering the entire 
plant, compensate for the loss of off-site electric power. Reliability 
of diesel generators is considerably lower than required and, moreover, 
one of two diesel generators is often out of service. Therefore, for 
Y2K, an additional source of backup power needs to be provided, and 
both EDGs should be operable with sufficient fuel on site to compensate 
for fuel delivery problems.
    2. In order to ensure that sufficient electric power is available 
during an extended loss of offsite power to safely shut down a nuclear 
plant and cool the spent fuel pool, enough diesel fuel should be 
available at the site for periods extending from 60 days to 160 days to 
whatever the time period that offsite power is not available.
    3. An additional power source or method should be available during 
power failure to provide makeup water to the spent fuel pool.
    4. On at least one occasion, a nuclear power plant licensee 
falsified data relative to the reliability of EDGs. The concern is that 
other nuclear utilities may not provide reliable data for their EDGs to 
NRC. These comments are addressed specifically in the discussion of 
``Reasons for Denial.''
    Seventeen letters opposed the petition, including 4 from private 
citizens, 3 from nuclear associated industries, and 10 from utilities. 
Comments opposing the petition stated that onsite emergency electric 
power generators are already required to be maintained in a state of 
readiness and validated by periodic testing, fuel supplies are 
maintained at a level adequate to facilitate appropriate response/
recovery actions, and the current regulations and license conditions 
are adequate to address the issue. One commenter used a specific 
facility as an example to demonstrate that in the highly unlikely event 
of a total loss of electrical power (meaning the loss of the electric 
grid and backup power) the conditions at that facility would not 
threaten public health and safety. Any potential adverse impacts would 
be limited to work areas and equipment within the facility, and there 
would be no catastrophic or significant loss of control or containment 
of nuclear material. That commenter indicated that the provision of a 
tertiary (meaning a secondary backup) source of electric power to its 
fuel facility, which would be independent of the broader electric grid, 
as would be required under PRM-50-67, is an unreasonable requirement 
that would force shutdown of the facility on December 1, 1999, in the 
absence of any significant credible safety risk.

Reasons for Denial

    NRC is denying the petition because the Commission has determined 
that

[[Page 45913]]

current NRC regulations and license conditions governing power systems 
at part 50 and 70 facilities provide reasonable assurance of adequate 
protection to public health and safety, and licensees are taking 
appropriate actions to provide reasonable assurance that Y2K problems 
will not adversely affect the functioning of these power systems. The 
NRC is reviewing the licensees' implementation of these Y2K activities 
and will have sufficient time to take appropriate regulatory action if 
licensees' Y2K activities and programs are not properly implemented in 
a timely fashion. NIRS does not explain why the licensees' Y2K 
activities and programs, and NRC's oversight of the licensees' 
implementation of these activities and programs, are inadequate such 
that the rule proposed by NIRS is necessary to provide reasonable 
assurance of adequate protection from Y2K-induced unavailability of 
onsite power systems.
    NIRS' proposed rule contained three separate requirements for Part 
50 and Part 70 licensees: (1) Operational demonstration of EDGs and 
provision of a 60-day diesel fuel supply; (2) alternate means of backup 
power; and (3) classification of fuel pools as Class 1-E. Facilities 
that cannot demonstrate compliance with these requirements by December 
1, 1999, would be required to shut down until they could demonstrate 
compliance. The proposed requirements are addressed below for part 50 
power reactors, part 50 decommissioning reactors, part 50 non-power 
reactors, and part 70 licensees in Sections I, II, III, and IV, 
respectively.

I. Part 50 Nuclear Power Plants

A. Diesel Generator Operational Capability and Sixty-Day Fuel Supply

    Nuclear power plants must be protected against loss of offsite 
power (LOOP) by providing an onsite backup power system by either 10 
CFR part 50, Appendix A, General Design Criteria (GDCs) 17 and 18, or 
equivalent requirements in the plant's licensing basis. Most licensees 
rely upon diesel generators to provide onsite backup power, although 
there is at least one licensee that relies upon hydroelectric power. 
All licensees have committed to provide an onsite supply of fuel to 
operate diesel generators; most commitments are for a 7-day supply. In 
addition, nuclear power plants are required by 10 CFR 50.63 to have the 
capability to withstand loss of all ac power (generally referred to as 
``station blackout'' [SBO]) for an established period of time. As 
indicated in Section I.A.2 there is no reason to believe that Y2K would 
significantly affect the probability or duration of a LOOP and/or a SBO 
from that otherwise assessed in a licensee's coping analysis required 
by 10 CFR 50.63. To demonstrate that their plants can cope with SBO, 
some licensees rely upon an alternate ac power source(s) (separate from 
the backup power system) that utilizes diesel generators or gas turbine 
generators.
1. EDG Reliability
    NIRS claims that EDGs have proven to be unreliable, such that 
licensees should be required to demonstrate ``full operational 
capability'' 1 of EDGs that provide backup power. As 
previously noted, backup onsite power is usually provided by diesel 
generators, which supply electric power to the plant safety systems 
upon a LOOP. NRC regulations require that onsite electric power 
supplies and the onsite electric distribution system have sufficient 
independence, redundancy, and testability to perform their safety 
functions assuming a single failure. Furthermore, in accordance with 
their license conditions, all licensees are required to have backup 
electricity sources operational to supply safety-related equipment at 
all times independent of circumstances such as Y2K-induced LOOP. The 
operation and maintenance of diesel generators and other safety-related 
equipment necessary for the safe shutdown of the reactor are controlled 
by the plant technical specifications (TSs). The TSs are intended to 
ensure that sufficient power will be available to supply safety-related 
equipment at all times regardless of key Y2K dates. Moreover, the plant 
TSs require that immediate action be taken to restore inoperable diesel 
generators to operable status. The plant TSs require the diesel 
generators to be tested routinely in order to demonstrate their 
operability and their ability to supply power as needed.
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    \1\ The NRC assumes that by ``capability,'' NIRS actually means 
``reliability'' because ``capability'' normally refers to the 
ability of the emergency power system to power safety related 
electrical loads at the plant; whereas reliability normally refers 
to the actual performance of the system in terms of availability, 
which is what NIRS addresses in its petition.
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    NIRS did not present any information demonstrating that diesel 
generators are unreliable such that they should not be relied upon to 
provide backup power upon a LOOP. For each nuclear power plant, 
selected target diesel generator reliability values were established 
for plant-specific coping analysis in accordance with the requirements 
of 10 CFR 50.63, the SBO rule. Availability and reliability values are 
tracked by each licensee in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR 
50.65, the maintenance rule, and associated industry guidance.
    In the resolution of Generic Safety Issue B-56, ``Diesel Generator 
Reliability,'' one of the options recommended by NRC staff was to 
revise the SBO rule to include specific requirements for demonstrating 
diesel generator reliability. However, in SECY-93-044, ``Resolution of 
Generic Safety Issue B-56, Diesel Generator Reliability,'' dated March 
25, 1993, the Commission disapproved the revision to the SBO rule on 
the basis of the real progress made by the nuclear industry in 
improving the reliability of the diesel generators. NRC requirements 
and industry activities have resulted in a very high diesel generator 
reliability. In 1993, the industry-wide average reliability of diesel 
generators was in excess of 98 percent. An Idaho National Engineering 
Laboratory study (INEL-95-0035, ``Emergency Diesel Generator Power 
System Reliability: 1987-1993'') of a number of nuclear power EDG 
reliability concluded that those plants with a 0.950 reliability target 
goal were actually demonstrating 0.987, and the plants with a 0.975 
reliability target goal were actually demonstrating 0.985. The 
Commission stated that the industry should continue an aggressive 
program of maintenance as well as root cause analysis that will 
continue to offer assurance that diesel generator reliability will be 
maintained at a satisfactory level in the future.
    All licensees have implemented a maintenance monitoring program 
consistent with the maintenance rule, which became effective on July 
10, 1996. Licensees are required to monitor the performance of diesel 
generators against the established goals and to take appropriate 
corrective actions if the goals are not met. The maintenance rule 
requires that these goals be evaluated by the licensees at least every 
refueling cycle, not to exceed 2 years. To evaluate the process 
established by licensees to set goals and monitor them, and to verify 
that preventive maintenance has been effective for systems and 
components under the maintenance rule, NRC staff conducted baseline 
inspections of all nuclear plants during 1996-1998. At several plants, 
diesel generators were among the systems and components reviewed to 
verify that goals were established and monitoring and trending were 
being performed. For pilot plants, diesel generators continue to be 
inspected and evaluated using the risk-informed, performance-based 
inspection process, which is part of the

[[Page 45914]]

NRC Oversight Baseline Inspection Program. NRC staff will continue to 
assess the reliability of diesel generators at nuclear power plants to 
ensure that the reliability of diesel generators is maintained at 
levels specified by each licensee when it performed its plant-specific 
coping analyses for SBO.
    Additionally, the scope of licensees' Y2K programs, including 
contingency planning, covers the onsite power and other emergency power 
systems at the plant. NRC audits and reviews of licensee Y2K program 
activities to date have verified licensee consideration of these 
systems, and no associated Y2K issue relating to onsite power systems 
have been identified.
    The NRC does not believe, on the basis of current information from 
the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC),2 
that availability of offsite power from the electrical grid is likely 
to be significantly affected by Y2K-induced problems. In its most 
recent reports issued on January 11 and April 30, 1999, NERC states, 
``Transmission outages are expected to be minimal and outages that may 
occur are anticipated to be mitigated by reduced energy transfers 
established as part of the contingency planning process.'' Both reports 
indicate that the transition through critical Y2K rollover dates should 
have a minimal impact on electric systems operations in North America 
and that widespread, long-term loss of the grid as a result of Y2K-
induced events is not a credible scenario. Therefore, there is no 
reason to believe that Y2K would significantly affect the probability 
or duration of a LOOP and/or a SBO from that otherwise assessed in the 
licensee's coping analysis required by 10 CFR 50.63.
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    \2\  NERC is an electric industry organization made up of 10 
Regional Reliability Councils that account for nearly every bulk 
electric supply and delivery organization in the interconnections of 
North America. NERC and its Regional Reliability Councils set 
operating and engineering standards for the reliability of electric 
systems in North America. In May 1998, U.S. Department of Energy 
requested NERC to facilitate the electric industry's Y2K effort.
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    As discussed above, the diesel generators and associated onsite 
power supply systems, being within the scope of licensees' Y2K 
readiness programs, will be Y2K ready prior to the Y2K transition, and 
no decrease in reliability of the diesel generators is expected. The 
information provided by NERC indicates that the likelihood of a LOOP is 
not expected to increase significantly during Y2K transition. Based on 
these considerations, plus the ability of the plants to cope with a 
station blackout, the likelihood of an event that will jeopardize 
public health and safety is acceptably low.
    One of the public comments received by NRC in response to the 
petition indicated a concern regarding falsification of EDG reliability 
data by licensees. This particular concern has been investigated and 
resolved as documented in an NRC memorandum dated December 20, 1993, 
from the Office of Investigations to the Region II Regional 
Administrator, ``Vogtle Electric Generating Plant: Alleged False 
Statements Regarding Test Results on Emergency Diesel Generators (Case 
No. 2-90-020R).'' Falsification of EDG failure data by licensees is not 
considered by NRC as an industry-wide, generic occurrence. Such 
incidents, when identified, will continue to be treated by NRC on a 
case-by-case basis and appropriate actions will be taken in response.
2. Sixty-day fuel supply
    NIRS' proposed rule would require each nuclear power plant licensee 
to have a 60-day onsite supply of fuel for diesel generators, as 
opposed to a 7-day fuel supply to which most licensees have committed. 
However, NIRS provided no technical basis why offsite power from the 
grid would not be reestablished within the 7-day period accommodated by 
existing onsite fuel supplies. Nor did NIRS explain why, should a LOOP 
continue for longer than 7 days, a licensee would be unable to resupply 
diesel fuel for a period of 60 days so that a 60-day fuel supply must 
be maintained onsite. Commenters on the NIRS petition who suggested a 
requirement for a larger fuel supply (able to accommodate 160 days of 
operation without resupply) also did not provide any technical bases 
for their recommendations. As stated previously, the likelihood or 
duration of a LOOP is not expected to be significantly affected by the 
Y2K issue.
    Furthermore, the NRC licensees are taking appropriate actions to 
ensure that their plants will be able to cope with Y2K-induced LOOP 
durations longer than 7 days. As part of each plant's Y2K activities, 
each licensee is preparing a contingency plan, which includes obtaining 
diesel fuel and other necessary supplies to cope with Y2K-induced long-
term LOOP events. As part of NRC's review of licensees' implementation 
of their Y2K programs, NRC will confirm that licensee Y2K programs 
address emergency power sources, arrangements for obtaining critical 
commodities (e.g., EDG fuel oil) and other considerations for 
contingency planning identified in Nuclear Energy Institute/Nuclear 
Utilities Software Management Group (NEI/NUSMG) 98-07, ``Nuclear 
Utility Year 2000 Readiness Contingency Planning,'' dated August 1998.
    The capability of diesel generators and the adequacy of existing 
fuel supplies have been demonstrated at numerous plants during weather-
induced interruptions of the power grid and other cases of LOOP from 
the grid. An example is the Turkey Point nuclear plant LOOP event 
during the August 1992 Hurricane Andrew when the diesel generators 
automatically picked up safety-related loads and maintained the plant 
for an extended period (over 6 days) during the recovery until site 
power was restored. NRC considers the current 7-day fuel capacity to be 
sufficient to operate diesel generators for longer than the time that 
it takes to replenish the onsite supply from outside sources. 
Accordingly, a rule requiring licensees to maintain sufficient fuel to 
operate their diesel generators for a 60-day period or longer is not 
necessary to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection 
against Y2K-induced LOOP events. The regulation requires nuclear power 
plants to withstand LOOP events regardless of whether the LOOP is due 
to Y2K or other causes. The petitioner has not demonstrated that Y2K 
would significantly affect the probability or duration of loss of all 
alternating current power from that otherwise assumed in the licensee's 
coping analysis required by 10 CFR 50.63, and the licensees' coping 
analyses continue to be applicable during the period that NIRS claims 
would present an increased susceptibility to a LOOP.

B. Additional Alternate Means of Backup Power

    NIRS' petition requests NRC to require all licensees to provide an 
alternate (second) means of backup power, such as solar power panels, 
wind turbines, hydroelectric power, and biomass power. The petition 
also requests NRC to require that the alternate backup power system 
provide electricity directly to the licensee rather than to the broader 
electrical grid.
1. Need for Additional Backup Power Source
    As discussed in Section I.A.1 above, not only must licensees 
provide a source of backup power upon a LOOP, some licensees have 
provided an alternate ac power source in order to demonstrate that they 
are able to cope with a LOOP concurrent with a loss of onsite backup 
power (an SBO) for a specified duration. Thus, these licensees have 
three sources of power: (1) Offsite

[[Page 45915]]

power from two independent circuits; (2) onsite backup power from 
independent, redundant power supplies; and (3) alternate ac power. The 
NRC does not believe that the NIRS' proposal for a fourth source of 
power (``alternative backup power,'' in the words of NIRS) is necessary 
to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection against Y2K-
induced problems.
    The petitioner does not explain why Y2K would affect diesel 
generators as a source of backup and/or alternate ac power, such that a 
source of power in addition to diesel generators is necessary to 
address SBO. The scope of the licensees' Y2K program covers both the 
onsite backup and the alternate ac power systems at nuclear power 
plants. Since 1996, NRC has been working with the nuclear industry and 
licensees of operating nuclear power plants in order to achieve Y2K 
readiness at all nuclear power plants. NRC has issued Information 
Notice (IN) 96-70, ``Year 2000 Effect on Computer System Software,'' on 
December 24, 1996; Generic Letter (GL) 98-01, ``Year 2000 Readiness of 
Computer Systems at Nuclear Power Plants,'' on May 11, 1998; and GL 98-
01, Supplement 1, ``Year 2000 Readiness of Computer Systems at Nuclear 
Power Plants,'' on January 14, 1999.
    NRC issued IN 96-70 to alert nuclear power plant licensees of the 
Y2K problem. The information notice described the potential problems 
that nuclear power plant computer systems and software may encounter 
during and following the transition into the year 2000 and how the Y2K 
issue may affect NRC licensees. IN 96-70 encouraged licensees to 
examine their uses of computer systems and software well before the 
year 2000 and suggested that licensees consider appropriate actions for 
examining and evaluating their computer systems for Y2K 
vulnerabilities.
    In GL 98-01, NRC endorsed the guidance in the industry document 
issued by the NEI/NUSMG 97-07, ``Nuclear Utility Year 2000 Readiness,'' 
when properly augmented in the area of risk management, contingency 
planning, and remediation of embedded systems, as one possible approach 
in implementing a plant-specific Y2K readiness program. In August 1998, 
NEI issued an industry document, NEI/NUSMG 98-07, which provided 
additional guidance in the area of internal and external risk 
management and contingency planning. External events that should be 
considered for facility-specific contingency planning include electric 
grid/transmission/ distribution system events (e.g., a LOOP, grid 
instability and voltage fluctuations, load fluctuations and loss of 
grid control systems), loss of emergency plan equipment and services, 
loss of essential services, and depletion of consumables. The NRC 
considers the guidance in NEI/NUSMG 98-07, when properly implemented, 
as an acceptable approach to mitigate and manage Y2K-induced events 
that could occur on Y2K-critical dates.
    In GL 98-01, NRC requested that all operating nuclear power plant 
licensees submit written responses regarding their facility-specific 
Y2K readiness programs in order to obtain confirmation that licensees 
are addressing the Y2K problem effectively. All licensees have 
responded to GL 98-01, stating that they have adopted plant-specific 
programs that are intended to make the plants Y2K ready by July 1, 
1999. GL 98-01 also requests a written response, no later than July 1, 
1999, confirming that these facilities are Y2K ready, including 
contingency planning. Licensees who are not Y2K ready by July 1, 1999, 
must provide a status report and schedule for the remaining work to 
ensure timely Y2K readiness.
    As part of its oversight of licensee Y2K activities, the NRC staff 
conducted sample audits of 12 plant-specific Y2K readiness programs. 
The objectives of the audits were as follows:
    1. To assess the effectiveness of licensee programs for achieving 
Y2K readiness and in addressing compliance with the terms and 
conditions of their license and NRC regulations and continued safe 
operation.
    2. To evaluate program implementation activities to ensure that 
licensees are on schedule to achieve Y2K readiness in accordance with 
GL 98-01 guidelines.
    3. To assess the licensee contingency planning for addressing risks 
associated with events resulting from Y2K problems.
    NRC staff determined that this approach was an appropriate means of 
oversight of licensee Y2K readiness efforts because: (1) All licensees 
had committed to the nuclear power industry Y2K readiness guidance 
(NEI/NUSMG 97-07) in their first response to NRC GL 98-01; and (2) the 
audit would verify that licensees were effectively implementing the 
guidelines. The sample of 12 licensees included large utilities such as 
Commonwealth Edison and Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as small 
single-unit licensees such as North Atlantic Energy (Seabrook) and Wolf 
Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation. NRC staff selected a variety of 
types of plants of different ages and locations in this sample in order 
to obtain the necessary assurance that nuclear power industry Y2K 
readiness programs are being effectively implemented and that licensees 
are on schedule to meet the readiness target date of July 1, 1999, 
established in GL 98-01.
    In late January 1999, NRC staff completed the 12 audits. On the 
basis of the audit observations, NRC staff has concluded that licensees 
are effectively addressing Y2K issues and are undertaking the actions 
necessary to achieve Y2K readiness in accordance with the GL 98-01 
target date, although some plants will have some remediation, testing, 
and final certification scheduled for the fall 1999 outage. NRC staff 
did not identify any issues that would prevent these licensees from 
achieving readiness.
    The NRC staff is not aware of any Y2K problems in nuclear power 
plant systems that directly affect actuation of safety functions, 
including the emergency onsite power systems. Moreover, NRC audit 
results to date have not identified any associated residual Y2K 
problems with the emergency onsite power system and have confirmed the 
licensees' consideration of these systems. Also, the audits did not 
identify any Y2K problem in safety-related activation systems.
    Additionally, the NRC's regional staff reviewed Y2K activities at 
all operating nuclear power plants to verify the status of licensee 
efforts to ensure that all plants will be able to function safely on 
January 1, 2000, and beyond. These reviews: (1) Verified that all NRC 
licensees have implemented Y2K program activities; (2) evaluated the 
progress made to ensure that the licensees are on schedule to achieve 
Y2K readiness; and (3) assessed licensees' contingency plans for 
addressing Y2K-related issues. The reviews were completed by July 1999.
    The NRC staff audited the contingency planning efforts of six 
licensee facilities. The audits at these facilities examined in detail 
backup measures the utilities have in place to deal with possible Y2K 
problems, either on site or off site, that might affect plant 
operations. The audits were conducted in May and June 1999.
    The reviews and audits will allow NRC staff to verify the progress 
of all licensees and determine whether any regulatory action is needed. 
Information from the reviews will be used in conjunction with the 
status reports that NRC has required its nuclear power plant licensees 
to provide by July 1, 1999. By July 1, 1999, all licensees responded to 
GL 98-01, Supplement 1.

[[Page 45916]]

The responses indicated that 68 plants are Y2K ready and 35 plants need 
to complete work on computer systems or devices after July 1, 1999.
    NIRS presents no information or argument why these actions by the 
licensees, the nuclear industry, and NRC are not sufficient to ensure 
that onsite back up and alternate ac power systems will not be 
adversely affected by Y2K-induced problems.
2. Specific Backup Power Sources Proposed by NIRS
    The petitioner's proposed alternative backup power sources, such as 
solar and wind, are not reliable backup power sources because of their 
undependability under unpredictable weather conditions or because they 
are limited by the amount of power they can generate. Additional 
comments received by the NRC in response to the petition also suggested 
the requirement for alternate power. The petitioner does not provide 
sufficient technical information to demonstrate that these additional 
alternative backup power sources would add more reliability than 
current backup power sources. Therefore, most of the sources of 
alternative backup power that are included in NIRS' proposed rule would 
not constitute an acceptable alternative source of backup power with 
the same level of availability and capability as diesel generators.

C. Spent Fuel Pool Class 1E Classification and Backup Power

    The proposed rule would require all part 50 licensees to 
immediately classify irradiated (spent) fuel pools as Class 1-E and 
provide sufficient backup power to provide cooling to these pools. 
Because Class 1-E is an electric system classification, the NRC assumes 
that the petitioner intends the rule to require that the backup power 
supply for spent fuel pool cooling systems be classified as Class 1-E.
    The petitioner does not explain why classification of the electric 
power system for spent fuel pool cooling systems as Class 1-E is 
necessary to protect spent fuel pools against a Y2K-induced LOOP. The 
Class 1-E classification addresses design and quality assurance (QA) 
requirements for manufacture and installation of electrical system 
components. Most of these systems are based upon analog controls and, 
therefore, are not subject to Y2K problems. Furthermore, simple 
reclassification of the electrical power system by itself would not 
appear to have any direct effect on minimizing Y2K-induced loss of 
power necessary for spent fuel cooling. Rather, an evaluation of the 
power system for Y2K susceptibility is necessary, which is what 
licensees have committed to implement. Thus, it is unclear how the 
requested requirements in the NIRS petition would provide assurance 
that Y2K problems will not prevent electrical power systems from 
performing their necessary safety functions. The NRC concludes that a 
rule change is not necessary since licensees are already directly 
addressing spent fuel pool cooling as part of their Y2K programs.
    Furthermore, the NRC does not agree that a backup source of 
electrical power for spent fuel cooling is necessary at nuclear power 
plants in order to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection. 
At most operating nuclear power plants, the emergency onsite power 
system can directly supply electric power to its spent fuel pool 
cooling systems. At those plants at which the spent fuel cooling system 
is not directly connected to the emergency onsite power system, the 
capability exists of connecting the cooling system to the emergency 
onsite power system. Requiring a backup (tertiary) source of electrical 
power is not justified in view of the length of time between loss of 
spent fuel cooling and the point at which there is a significant threat 
to integrity of the spent fuel rods. A licensee is required to keep the 
spent fuel pool filled to a level more than 23 feet above the top of 
the fuel rods and, generally, the water temperature in the pool is to 
be maintained below 140  deg.f. For a typical pool with a capacity of 
about 400,000 gallons and a worst case heat load causing 50 gpm of 
water loss as a result of evaporation, it would take about 3 days for 
the pool level to drop to the top of the fuel racks. This estimate does 
not include the heat-up time of 3 to 4 hours for the pool water to 
increase from 140  deg.f to 212  deg.f. This scenario assumes a total 
loss of all ac electric power and that no corrective actions are taken 
for 3 days in response to the decreasing water level in the spent fuel 
pool. For a typical heat load (non-refueling), the time to uncovering 
of the spent fuel pool would be around 2 weeks, again assuming that no 
make-up water is added to the pool. Upon loss of water shielding, the 
radiation levels above the pool would increase. Assuming LOOP and 
failure of onsite emergency power sources, the only action necessary 
would be to provide make-up water to the spent fuel pool. The existing 
plant operating/emergency procedures provide for initiation of make-up 
water to the pool upon detection of low level. At many plants, the 
make-up water supply is provided by a plant safety system. Upon loss of 
all ac power, make-up water from any source, such as fire hoses 
supplied by diesel-driven fire pumps, can be used to maintain the 
required water level in the pool. In light of the substantial period of 
time available for a licensee to take mitigative actions upon loss of 
spent fuel pool electrical power, the NRC concludes that providing an 
additional backup source of power is not warranted at any operating 
nuclear power plant.

II. Part 50 Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants

    There are 21 permanently shutdown nuclear power plants which have 
been shut down for more than a year. Six of these facilities have 
removed all spent fuel from the site. Therefore, there are only 15 
decommissioning power plants to which the proposed requirements in the 
petition would potentially apply.
    Spent fuel pool cooling and support systems may be configured 
differently for decommissioning plants than for operating reactors due 
to the reduced need for decay heat removal at decommissioning plants. 
As decay heat loads drop, utilities are able under 10 CFR 50.59 to 
remove equipment from service once it no longer is needed to provide 
its safety function. At some plants there is no need for forced 
circulation to remove heat from the pool as adequate heat loss to 
ambient keeps the pool at an acceptable temperature. After a period of 
decay in the spent fuel pool, the heat load from spent fuel is 
significantly reduced as short-lived fission products decay. 
Consequently, the potential for boiling is reduced and the time 
available for the licensee to take mitigative action is greater. With 
the exception of Zion and Big Rock Point, more than three years has 
elapsed since any fuel was irradiated in the reactor at any of the 
nuclear power plants currently undergoing decommissioning.
    The reasons discussed in Section I.C above regarding why electrical 
systems need not be classified Class 1-E for spent fuel pools at 
operating nuclear power plants also apply equally to decommissioning 
nuclear power plants. As previously noted, requiring a backup source of 
electrical power is not justified in view of the length of time between 
loss of spent fuel cooling and the point where there is a significant 
threat to integrity of the spent fuel rods. Upon loss of all ac power, 
make-up water from any source, such as fire hoses supplied by diesel-
driven fire pumps, can be used to maintain the required water level in 
the pool.

[[Page 45917]]

    In view of the long time period available for the licensee to 
respond to loss of power to the spent fuel pool cooling system and the 
relative simplicity of mitigative actions, the requirements proposed by 
NIRS with respect to spent fuel pool electrical system reclassification 
and the provision of alternative power are not justified.

III. Part 50 Non-Power Reactor Licensees

    Non-power reactors operate at power levels ranging from 250 KWt to 
2 MWt, and they operate at low temperatures. Any non-power reactor in 
operation on January 1, 2000, can be readily shut down manually using 
emergency procedures and existing shutdown systems. These reactors have 
passive safety features and generally do not require power to shut down 
and dissipate decay heat. Accordingly, NRC regulations do not currently 
require part 50 non-power reactors to provide a backup power source.
    NIRS did not present any information or rationale why part 50 non-
power reactors must provide an ``alternate'' source of backup power to 
address Y2K losses of power. In particular, NIRS did not address the 
fact that these facilities are not required to have a backup power 
source because power is not required to shut down and maintain these 
facilities in a safe-shutdown condition. In the absence of any 
rationale in support of the proposed requirement, the Commission 
concludes that there is no basis for adopting the proposed requirement 
for part 50 non-power reactor licensees.

IV. Part 70 Licensees

    To alert major part 70 licensees of the Y2K problem, NRC issued 
Information Notice (IN) 96-70 in December 1996, and IN 98-30 in August 
1998. In IN 96-70, NRC staff described the potential Y2K problems, 
encouraged licensees to examine their uses of computer systems and 
software well before the year 2000, and suggested that licensees 
consider appropriate actions to examine and evaluate their computer 
systems for Y2K vulnerabilities. In IN 98-30, NRC staff provided 
definitions of ``Y2K ready'' and ``Y2K compliant,'' encouraged 
licensees to contact vendors and test their systems for Y2K problems, 
and described elements of a Y2K readiness program.
    In order to gather Y2K information regarding materials and major 
fuel cycle facilities, NRC formed a Y2K Team within the Office of 
Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) in 1997. From September 
through December 1997, this NMSS Y2K Team visited a cross-section of 
materials licensees and fuel cycle facilities and conducted Y2K 
interviews. Each licensee or facility visited by the team indicated 
that it was aware of the Y2K issue and was in various stages of 
implementing its Y2K readiness program.
    On June 22, 1998, the NRC staff issued Generic Letter (GL) 98-03, 
``NMSS Licensees and Certificate Holders' Year 2000 Readiness 
Programs,'' requested major part 70 licensees to inform NRC of the 
status of their Y2K readiness programs. In GL 98-03, the NRC staff 
requested all major part 70 licensees to submit by September 20, 1998, 
written responses regarding their facility-specific Y2K readiness 
program in order to confirm that they were addressing the Y2K problem 
effectively. All licensees responded to GL 98-03 by stating that they 
had adopted a facility-specific Y2K readiness program, and the scope of 
the program included identifying and, where appropriate, remediating 
embedded systems, and provided for risk management and the development 
of contingency plans. GL 98-03 also requested a written response, no 
later than December 31, 1998, which confirmed that these facilities 
were Y2K ready or provided a status report of work remaining to be done 
to become Y2K ready, including completion schedules. All licensees 
provided a second response to GL 98-03, which provided reports of work 
to be done, including completion schedules. Furthermore, following the 
second response, NRC requested a third written response, no later than 
July 1, 1999, which would confirm that these facilities were Y2K ready 
or would provide an updated status report.
    Between September 1997 and October 1998, the major fuel cycle 
facilities were also asked Y2K questions during other inspections. On 
the basis of these Y2K inspections, the licensees were aware of the Y2K 
problem and were adequately addressing Y2K issues. There have been no 
identified risk-significant Y2K concerns for major part 70 licensees.
    NIRS presents no information or argument why these above-mentioned 
actions by the licensees and NRC are not sufficient to address Y2K 
problems and provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection during 
the transition from 1999 to 2000.

EDG Reliability and Fuel Supply

    The requirements proposed in the NIRS petition would require that: 
(1) All EDGs that provide backup power be operational and (2) licensees 
have a 60-day supply of fuel for EDGs or the facility would be shut 
down. The petitioner indicated these requirements are necessary to 
protect public health and safety. However, there are no part 70 
licensees required to have EDGs in order to provide backup power to 
protect public health and safety. In the event of the loss of electric 
power in part 70 facilities, processing stops and there is no need for 
electric power to maintain a safe condition. There are some part 70 
licensees who have independent power sources in order to meet physical 
protection (PP) requirements. These licensees are also required to have 
contingency plans for PP (e.g., augmented guard force) in the event of 
loss of independent power. Based on the above discussion, the 60-day 
fuel supply requirement is also not needed for part 70 licensees to 
provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection to public health 
and safety.
    The petitioner does not provide sufficient technical information to 
demonstrate that part 70 licensees must shut down if they do not have 
EDGs providing backup power or must have a 60-day fuel supply for EDGs.

Additional Alternate Means of Backup Power

    NIRS asserted that NRC must require licensees to provide alternate 
means of backup power (e.g., solar power panels, wind turbines, 
hydroelectric power, biomass power). As stated above, it is not 
necessary for part 70 licensees to have backup power in order to 
shutdown to a safe condition. Also, part 70 licensees who are required 
to have independent power sources to meet PP requirements have 
contingency plans to meet the loss of the back-up power. Further, the 
petitioner does not provide sufficient technical information to 
demonstrate that these alternative back-up power sources are needed to 
to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection to public health 
and safety.

Back-up Power Supply for Spent Fuel Pool Cooling System

    The proposed rule in the NIRS petition requests NRC to require that 
all licensees immediately classify irradiated fuel pools as Class 1-E, 
and provide sufficient back-up power to provide cooling to these pools. 
Because Class 1-E is an electric system classification, the NRC staff 
assumes that the petitioner intends the rule to apply to the back-up 
power supply for spent fuel pool cooling systems. Although some part 70 
licensees have irradiated fuel at their facilities, these facilities do 
not store large quantities of irradiated fuel. The irradiated fuel is

[[Page 45918]]

used for research and development or educational purposes. If the 
irradiated fuel is stored in a pool, the heat generated from the fuel 
would be minimal and would not require a pool cooling system.
    The petitioner provides no technical justification to support the 
proposal that spent fuel pools be immediately classified as Class 1-E. 
The regulatory action requested by NIRS is not required for part 70 
licensees.

Conclusion

    Existing NRC requirements, licensee commitments, and licensee 
activities and programs are sufficient to cope with losses of power, 
including those losses of offsite power that could be caused by Y2K 
problems. NIRS has not presented any information either that existing 
requirements and licensee commitments are inadequate to address losses 
of power due to Y2K problems, such that the requirements proposed in 
NIRS' petition are necessary to provide reasonable assurance of 
adequate protection to public health and safety. Accordingly, the 
Commission denies the petition.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 17th day of August, 1999.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Andrew L. Bates,
Acting Secretary of the Commission.
[FR Doc. 99-21752 Filed 8-20-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P