United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 87-32: Deficiencies in the Testing of Nuclear-Grade Activated Charcoal

                                                    SSINS No.:  6835 
                                                        IN 87-32

                                  UNITED STATES
                          NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                      OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
                             WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                                  July 10, 1987


Information Notice No. 87-32:  DEFICIENCIES IN THE TESTING OF NUCLEAR-
                                   GRADE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL


Addressees:

All nuclear power reactor facilities holding an operating license or a con-
struction permit.

Purpose:

This information notice is provided to call attention to deficiencies found in 
the testing of nuclear-grade activated charcoal used for accident mitigation 
in nuclear facilities.  It is expected that recipients will review the 
information for applicability to their facilities and consider action, if 
appropriate, to preclude a similar problem at their facilities.  However, 
suggestions contained in this information notice do not constitute NRC 
requirements; therefore, no specific action or written response is required.

Background:

The ASME Committee on Nuclear Air and Gas Treatment (CONAGT) first identified 
a problem with testing nuclear-grade activated charcoal when the committee 
conducted an interlaboratory comparison and found that seven U.S. and eight 
foreign testing companies obtained vastly differing results from testing 
samples of the same charcoal.  After efforts to resolve the differences 
failed, the NRC contracted with the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory 
(EG&G) to investigate the problem.  The contractor has conducted independent 
laboratory studies and has worked with the testing companies to identify the 
principal problems.  Serious problems were found with the capabilities of the 
testing companies and with the testing standard (ASTM Standard D-3803-1979, 
"Standard Methods for Radioiodine Testing of Nuclear-Grade Gas-Phase 
Adsorbents").  Specific suggestions were made to improve the capabilities of 
the testing companies; a new testing protocol was developed to correct 
shortcomings found in the standard; and a final interlaboratory comparison was 
conducted.  

The results, which were received in November 1986, indicate a substantial 
improvement over the original CONAGT results, but some companies still did not 
report acceptably accurate results.  The contractor's technical evaluation 
report, EGG-CS-7653, "Final Technical Evaluation Report for the NRC/INEL 
Activated Carbon Testing Program," has been published and has been placed in 
the NRC Public Document Room.


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                                                             IN 87-32
                                                                 July 10, 1987
                                                                 Page 2 of 2 


Discussion

Engineered safety features, including charcoal, are provided at nuclear power 
plants to protect employees and the public from accidentally released radio-
active materials.  It has been recognized that only certain charcoals would 
meet the special needs of nuclear plants (see NUREG/CR-3990, "Charcoal 
Performance Under Accident Conditions").  ASTM Standard D-3803-1979 was 
developed to specify the requirements for testing charcoal and was accepted by 
the NRC (Regulatory Guide 1.52, 1979).  The NRC investigation, which followed 
the CONAGT interlaboratory comparison, identified serious shortcomings in the 
standard and found that it had never been verified.  The standard is currently 
being revised.  However, until it is available the protocol developed by EG&G 
is one possibility for consideration by testing companies.

Although shortcomings in testing capabilities were identified by EG&G, defi-
ciencies can be corrected only by the individual companies.  The failure to 
upgrade equipment so the test parameters can be adequately controlled is the 
principal reason for the unacceptable results in the recent tests.

Additional information on test accuracies and changes made to improve the 
accuracy of test results may be sought by direct contact with the individual 
testing companies.

No specific action or written response is required by this information notice.
If you have any questions about this matter, please contact the Regional 
Administrator of the appropriate regional office or this office.




                              Charles E. Rossi, Director
                              Division of Operational Events Assessment
                              Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical Contacts:  Charles A. Willis, NRR
                     (301) 492-8340

                     Charles R. Nichols, NRR
                     (301) 492-9416

Attachment:  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices

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