United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 88-71: Possible Environmental Effect of the Reentry of Cosmos 1900 and Request for Collection of Licensee Radioactivity Measurements Attributed to that Event

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

                                September 1, 1988


Information Notice No. 88-71:  POSSIBLE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECT OF THE 
                                   REENTRY OF COSMOS 1900 AND REQUEST FOR 
                                   COLLECTION OF LICENSEE RADIOACTIVITY 
                                   MEASUREMENTS ATTRIBUTED TO THAT EVENT 


Addressees: 

All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power 
reactors, fuel cycle licensees, and Priority 1 material licensees. 

Purpose: 

This information notice is being provided to:  1) alert licensees to the anti-
cipated reentry of a U.S.S.R. satellite, COSMOS 1900, which is powered by a 
nuclear reactor; and 2) request voluntary reporting of any licensee environ-
mental radioactivity measurement data probably caused by that event. 

In order to enhance Federal and State monitoring programs, all facilities with
ongoing environmental monitoring programs are requested to consider the NRC 
request to report confirmed anomalous environmental radioactivity measurements
likely to have been caused by radioactive material released during the reentry
of COSMOS 1900.  However, the request contained in this information notice 
does not constitute an NRC requirement. 

Description of Circumstances: 

On May 13, 1988, the Soviet News Agency Tass announced that the Soviets had 
lost radio contact with COSMOS 1900, a satellite launched on December 12, 
1987.  Tass noted that COSMOS 1900 carries a nuclear power plant which is 
believed to still be operating.  The Soviets have indicated that the satellite
is continuing to maintain its orientation.  However, if nothing is done to 
maintain the orbit, the satellite will eventually decay and enter the earth's 
atmosphere.  Latest predictions are that the satellite will reenter between 
mid-September and early October.  This prediction is subject to uncertainties,
however, and the reentry could occur sooner if the stability of the satellite 
changes. 

The primary means of preventing the reentry of a radioactive nuclear core is 
to boost the reactor into a higher orbit to allow for decay.  By radio command
from earth, the nuclear reactor would be ejected and moved to an orbit 






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in excess of 800 kilometers.  Since this method has apparently failed, there 
is a system designed to automatically separate the core from the satellite.  
If upon reentry, there has been a separation, it is expected that the reactor 
would burn up completely like COSMOS 1402 in 1983 and no debris would reach 
the earth's surface.  There is, however, uncertainty about the condition of 
any of these systems.  If the satellite and nuclear power plant remain intact,
it is believed that debris may reach the earth's surface like the 1978 reentry
of COSMOS 954 which deposited a significant amount of radioactive debris on 
Canada. 

Discussion: 

This notice is primarily to alert licensees of the reentry of COSMOS 1900.  It
is highly unlikely that debris from the reentry will impact any part of the 
U.S. However, there is some probability that increased radiation levels may be
detected.  In that case, in order to supplement and reinforce the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nationwide surveillance program, NRC 
licensees, as part of their routine environmental monitoring program, are 
requested to voluntarily provide the following information: 

     Report to the NRC any anomalous environmental radiation or radioactivity 
     measurement that can be reasonably assumed to have resulted from the 
     reentry of COSMOS 1900.  The NRC would like confirmed measurement results
     from the licensee's routine environmental monitoring program to be 
     reported via facsimile to the NRC Operations Center (301/492-8187; 
     verification 301/951-0550) within 24 hours of determining that material 
     from the re-entry has been measured. 
     
The reporting format is requested to provide for: 

     �  Sample date(s) and approximate location(s) 
     �  Medium or pathway (e.g., air particulate, soil) 
     �  Type of analysis (e.g., gross beta, gamma spectrometry) 
     �  Statistical data (mean, range, number of samples) 

Any data provided by NRC licensees will be transmitted to EPA.  Because of the
sensitivity and broad scope of existing licensee programs, augmentation of NRC
licensee environmental monitoring programs is not being requested. 

We appreciate your cooperation with us in this matter.  If you have any 
questions regarding this matter, please contact the technical contact listed 
below or the Regional Administrator of the appropriate NRC regional office. 

This request is covered by Office of Management and Budget Clearance Number 
3150-0011 which expires December 31, 1989.  The estimated average burden hours
is 4 man-hours per licensee response, including assessment of the request, 
searching data sources, gathering and analyzing the data, and preparing the 
reports.  Comments on the accuracy of this estimate and suggestions to reduce 
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                                                            September 1, 1988 
                                                            Page 3 of 3 


the burden may be directed to the Office of Management and Budget, Room 3208, 
New Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.  20503, and to the U.S. 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Records and Reports Management Branch, Office 
of Administration and Resources Management, Washington, D.C.  20555. 




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

Technical Contact:  Bernard H. Weiss, AEOD 
                    (301) 492-7053 

Attachment:  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
.                                                            Attachment 
                                                            IN 88-71 
                                                            September 1, 1988 
                                                            Page 1 of 1

                             LIST OF RECENTLY ISSUED
                            NRC INFORMATION NOTICES 
_____________________________________________________________________________
Information                                  Date of 
Notice No._____Subject_______________________Issuance_______Issued to________

88-70          Check Valve Inservice         8/29/88        All holders of OLs
               Testing Program                              or CPs for nuclear
               Deficiencies                                 power reactors. 

88-69          Movable Contact Finger        8/19/88        All holders of OLs
               Binding in HFA Relays                        or CPs for nuclear
               Manufactured by General                      power reactors. 
               Electric (GE) 

88-48,         Licensee Report of Defective  8/24/88        All holders of OLs
Supplement 1   Refurbished Valves                           or CPs for nuclear
                                                            power reactors. 

88-68          Setpoint Testing of Pres-     8/22/88        All holders of OLs
               surizer Safety Valves with                   or CPs for nuclear
               Filled Loop Seals Using                      power reactors. 
               Hydraulic Assist Devices 

88-67          PWR Auxiliary Feedwater Pump  8/22/88        All holders of OLs
               Turbine Overspeed Trip                       or CPs for nuclear
               Failure                                      power reactors. 

88-66          Industrial Radiography        8/22/88        All NRC industrial
               Inspection and Enforcement                   radiography 
                                                            licensees. 

88-65          Inadvertent Drainages of      8/18/88        All holders of OLs
               Spent Fuel Pools                             or CPs for nuclear
                                                            power reactors and
                                                            fuel storage 
                                                            facilities. 

88-64          Reporting Fires in Nuclear    8/18/88        All holders of OLs
               Process Systems at Nuclear                   or CPs for nuclear
               Power Plants                                 power reactors. 

88-63          High Radiation Hazards        8/15/88        All holders of OLs
               from Irradiated Incore                       or CPs for nuclear
               Detectors and Cables                         power reactors, 
                                                            research reactors 
                                                            and test reactors.
_____________________________________________________________________________
OL = Operating License
CP = Construction Permit 
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, November 12, 2013