United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 92-79: Non-Power Reactor Emergency Event Response

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

                               December 1, 1992


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 92-79:  NON-POWER REACTOR EMERGENCY EVENT RESPONSE


Addressees

All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for test and
research reactors.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to the findings of an NRC review related to
emergency event response at non-power reactors.  These findings are on (1)
emergency action levels (EALs) to determine emergency event classification,
(2) sampling to measure a radioactive release, (3) dose assessment capability
for a radioactive airborne release, and (4) notifications to the NRC.  It is
expected that recipients will review the information for applicability to
their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to avoid potential
problems.  However, suggestions contained in this information notice are not
NRC requirements; therefore, no specific action or written response is
required.

Description of Circumstances

In November 1991, a small release of fission products at the Reed College
TRIGA reactor (located in Portland, Oregon) was sufficient to activate the
alarms of both the continuous air monitor and the gaseous stack monitor.  Upon
reviewing the EALs in the emergency plan, the licensee declared a Notification
of Unusual Event and notified the NRC Operations Center and the State.  The
NRC responded to the notifications by sending an inspection team to the
college to review the situation.  The NRC also sent a Public Affairs Officer
to respond to potential public and media interest.  The State of Oregon also
sent a monitoring team.  At the facility, the NRC inspectors found that the
licensee had characterized the release as fission products and had
conservatively estimated the amount of radioactivity released.  The NRC
inspectors assisted the licensee in assessing radiological dose consequences. 
The local media and public, including the student body, posed extensive
questions on the event and the release.  During a press conference, the
licensee and the NRC jointly addressed the health and safety concerns of the
media and public.






9211240106.

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The event at Reed College prompted the NRC to review similar non-power reactor
licensees to determine their capabilities to respond in similar circumstances. 
The NRC found that, while licensee capabilities varied, some licensees could
not readily locate sampling equipment discussed in emergency plans for
response, had not fully developed procedures for using the sampling equipment,
and did not have immediate access to a method of correlating the quantity of
radioactivity released to a dose at the site boundary.  The NRC also found
that the EALs and the criteria for notifying the NRC and other offsite
agencies varied greatly between licensees.  There were also examples of events
classified as alerts for which emergency plans did not specify notification of
the NRC.  The specific licensees were informed of these findings.

Discussion

Licensee classification of an event under its emergency plan dictates the
manner in which the NRC and other offsite agencies respond.  American Nuclear
Society/American National Standards Institute Standard 15.16-1982, "Emergency
Planning for Research Reactors," Regulatory Guide 2.6, "Emergency Planning for
Research Reactors," 1979, and NUREG-0849, "Standard Review Plan for the Review
and Evaluation of Emergency Plans for Research and Test Reactors," October
1983 contain information on event classification.  Improper classification of
an event may prevent the licensee, the NRC, other agencies, and the public
from responding appropriately to the event.   

The licensee, the NRC, and the public gave considerable attention to the
unplanned radiological release at Reed College, although the release resulted
in an estimated dose of much less than one millirem at the site boundary.  The
ability to quantify the magnitude and effects of a release and to establish
the safety significance of the release proved extremely important in the Reed
College event.  

Some abnormal events will generate substantial public interest regardless of
the actual safety significance of the event.  A small unplanned radiological
release is such an event.  Notification of the NRC Operations Center, or NRC
headquarters or regional contacts for events that could result in high public
interest, can enable the NRC to respond, in coordination with the licensee, to
issues raised by the media or the public about the event.  .

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This information notice requires no specific action or written response.  If
you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact
the technical contact listed below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear
Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager.


                                      ORIGINAL SIGNED BY


                                   Brian K. Grimes, Director
                                   Division of Operating Reactor Support
                                   Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical contact:  M. Mendonca, NRR
                    (301) 504-1128

Attachment:  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, November 12, 2013